Netherlands-based producer Brenx respectfully pays tribute to Bronx legend Big Pun with this well-executed collection of largely worthwhile remixes.
Netherlands-based producer Brenx respectfully pays tribute to Bronx legend Big Pun with this well-executed collection of largely worthwhile remixes.
Big Kahuna OG & Fly Anakin – “Rain N Sun Freestyle (RIP Big Pun)” (MutantAcademyRVA.BandCamp.Com / 2019)
The two Mutant Academy members flip a timeless interlude from Big Pun’s debut 1998 album “Capital Punishment” for the closing track on their “Big Fly 3” EP.
Bodega Bamz – “Terror” (@BodegaBamz / 2018)
The Rotten Apple emcee gives props to Fat Joe’s Terror Squad on this piano-laced cut off his new project “P.A.P.I.”.
Maffew Ragazino – “Killer Ben Fleaux” (@MaffewRagazino / 2016)
The Brooklyn emcee blesses a classic from the late, great Big Pun.
Maffew Ragazino – “Killer Ben Fleaux” (@MaffewRagazino / 2015)
The Crooklyn wordsmith blesses a Big Pun classic whilst continuing to finish work on his forthcoming “Eight Million Stories” project.
Buckwild gives a 1998 Bronx classic a thorough sonic overhaul with this dope track from the new Diggin’ In The Crates remix album.
Born and raised in the birthplace of Hip-Hop, Bronx emcee Majestic Gage takes his craft very seriously. It’s that same dedication to the art of lyricism which led to the 28-year-old wordsmith being recruited by NYC’s mighty D.I.T.C. to stand as one of the crew’s next generation of artists (alongside A-Bless and the now sadly deceased Tashane), building on the classic foundations set by the likes of Lord Finesse, A.G. and O.C. with genuine raw talent and a true love of the culture.
Having already recorded with established Diggin’ In The Crates affiliates D-Flow and Milano as one-third of Barbury’N, Gage has also been taking his own steps to showcase his skills, recently dropping the solo track “Fair Warning” produced by Harlem’s Ty Ahart.
With heavy involvement in the forthcoming D.I.T.C. compilation and his own projects on the horizon, Gage is determined to earn his props and respect the old-fashioned away, by displaying authentic microphone techniques rather than relying on gimmicks or being forced to embrace popular trends.
Here, the BX resident discusses his initial forays into rhyming, being co-signed by legendary producer Showbiz and his thoughts on New York radio.
What are some of your earliest Hip-Hop memories?
“My earliest memories of Hip-Hop are just hearing it around the house. My aunt, my mom’s younger sister Keisha, she used to always play Hip-Hop and I’d be hearing songs like Audio Two’s “Top Billin'”, other songs by Rakim, and I just used to walk around the house and listen to them. I used to think that rapping was cool, but at that point in time I never thought about actually doing music or anything like that. I mean, I was real young around that time, about seven-years-old, maybe even a little younger. So Hip-Hop was just something that I would hear in the house that I thought was cool and I used to rap along with the lyrics and I’d see the videos on TV.”
Although you were obviously very young at that point, did you have any awareness that the music you were hearing actually started in the same borough of New York that you were being raised in?
“I wasn’t aware at that age that it had happened in my borough like that. But, I used to watch “Beat Street” all the time (laughs). That was one of my favourite movies when I was little. I used to watch that movie over and over and over. Then, as I got older and a little more into the music, I started going back and listening to a lot of the older stuff which gave me some of the history behind the music. I mean, my mom wouldn’t even let me listen to the new stuff that was coming out, like when Biggie was first coming up and artists like that. She would not let me listen to that stuff due to the content of the music (laughs). So I used to listen to a lot of older artists like Kool Moe Dee, Rakim, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane and stuff like that. In fact, listening to KRS-One on “South Bronx” was actually how I really found out that Hip-Hop started in the Bronx (laughs). Looking back on it now, that was kinda fortunate for me, because I got to hear that stuff first and to know where the music came from. Plus, like I said, I was watching “Beat Street” and seeing the break-dancers and people putting graffiti on the walls, which was all just intriguing to me. But I still wasn’t actually rapping at that time. It was just cool to me to see Lee and them get down at The Roxy (laughs). I must have watched that movie about a hundred times.”
So being exposed to that older material helped you join the dots between what had happened in the 80s and the newer artists who were coming out at that time in the early-90s…
“Exactly. It was just fortunate for me to be exposed to that older music before I really heard the new stuff at the time, rather than starting to listen to the music where my era started in the 90s and then having to go back.”
So when did you actually start rhyming? Was it something you made a conscious decision to pursue or did it happen more naturally?
“Man, I remember this like it was yesterday. I was nine-years-old and I was in the fourth grade. It would have been around 1994. It was the beginning of the school year and my teacher gave us a homework assignment where we all had to go home and write a rap about ourselves. Then, when we came back to school on Monday everybody had to say their rap in front of the class. Now, my step-father used to rap back in the day, so when I went home I got him to help me with the rhyme. But aside from that, I’ve always had music in me anyway as my biological father is a musician and plays guitar. So anyway, my step-father helped me write this rhyme and I memorised it, even though it was probably only about six bars long (laughs). So I went to school on Monday, I said the rhyme in front of the class and everybody went crazy (laughs). That was a real rush and it was something I’d never felt before in my life. I mean, I was a pretty shy kid and I wasn’t someone who talked a lot or anything like that, but doing that in front of the class just made me feel some sort of way and I just couldn’t really explain it. But my teacher liked the rhyme so much that she brought me down to the second grade class and they all sat down in a circle around me and I said the same rhyme in front of these second graders and they were going crazy again! That feeling just came back (laughs). So, after that, I was like, ‘That was pretty ill.’ So what I started doing was, my step-father had a bunch of rhymes that he’d written back in the day….”
Was your step-father someone who was known for rhyming back-in-the-day or was he just doing it more as a past-time with his boys because Hip-Hop was so prevalent in the Bronx?
“Nah, he wasn’t really known for it. I mean, he was around people like Showbiz and them back in the day being from the Bronx, but he was rhyming just to rhyme. He didn’t put anything out or really do anything with it. I can’t even remember the name he said he used to rhyme under. But he had a whole bunch of rhymes written down and I used to go home from school and just read them. Then I started changing little words in the rhymes and I would learn those. But what happened is, after a certain amount of time, all of my step-father’s rhymes ran out (laughs). Now, I would change the words in his rhymes, spit the rhymes to my friends and everyone would be like, ‘Whoa!’ So when they eventually ran out, I had to start writing my own rhymes (laughs). I started rapping with my older brother, who had been writing rhymes before me. He was the person who put me on to people like Biggie and 2Pac. So we were writing our raps together and making little tapes to let our friends hear. Then, as I hit my teenage years, there weren’t really many people rhyming in my junior high-school, so my first ciphers were in my neighbourhood with some of the kids around there…”
Were you confident about your skills at that time or did it take awhile before people started saying that you were nice?
“Okay, so it was 1998 and I was about thirteen-years-old. I had mad raps already that I’d written and different song ideas. So this was around the time DMX had put out “It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot”. I remember, it was night-time and me and my boys were on our way to Harlem. We were walking down the block in the Bronx going past this restaurant called the Shrimp Box. One of my boys was like, ‘Yo! That looks like DMX!’ and I was like, ‘Nah!’ Now, we used to play games like that if we saw someone that looked like a celebrity. So I thought that’s what he was doing. We went across the street and my man Shawn was like, ‘You should go in there and rap to him, yo.’ Man, I was scared (laughs). I was petrified and was just like, ‘Naaah’ So Shawn said, ‘I’m going to go in there and talk to him.’ So he went in there, came out and was like, ‘X said that you ain’t no real rapper if you can’t go in there and rap to him.’ So I sucked up all my nervousness, went in there, gave DMX a pound and he was crazy cool. He was in there with his wife and a couple of his boys, I spit my rhyme for DMX and he was bobbing his head. Now, the whole situation was crazy to me because this was when DMX was at the height of success and he was right there in the Bronx. He called his manager right there on the spot, but he never picked up. But that’s when I really started thinking, ‘Okay, I’ve really got to get on this music thing, because if DMX says I’m nice then I must have something.’ I mean, X was one of my favourite artists back then.”
That must have really been an incredible moment for you as a young emcee to be given props by one of New York’s biggest artists at the time…
“Yeah, definitely. What was funny though was when I went back to my ‘hood and I’m telling people, ‘Yo, I rapped for DMX!’ everybody was like, ‘You’re lying!’ I was like, ‘Yo! I rapped for DMX on Third Avenue in the Shrimp Box!’ He autographed my dollar bill, so I showed them that and they just told me it was fake (laughs). But that was dope though to meet DMX like that. But it was after that, when I went to high-school, that was when I started to have my first battles. I’d only ever been in ciphers before and had never really battled, but people were telling me that I was nice so I was kinda itching to battle. I’d seen people battling before and always wanted to test those waters. So once I got into high-school, it was on (laughs). I remember a kid approached me within the first two weeks of starting high-school, he just walked right up to me and was like, ‘Yo! You wanna battle?’ It was just me, him and his man, nobody else was even paying attention and we just started going at it. We ended-up getting escorted out of the hall because everyone had to go to class, but I felt like I’d won so I was telling people that I’d battled him and that I ate him (laughs). Now, I wasn’t knowing that this guy Dave was considered the king of battling in the school. So, I was in the gym one day and he came up to me with mad people and was like, ‘You said you ate me? Let’s battle right now!’ We battled each other everyday after that (laughs). Every time he saw me, we battled. So I would go home and write my little raps because I knew he was going to come looking for me the next day. That went on until he gave me my respect and was like, ‘Okay, you’re nice.’ But that whole situation really helped me sharpen up my skills.”
At that time in the late-90s, Bronx rappers like Big Pun, Fat Joe and Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz were really holding their own against other NY artists like Jay-Z, DMX and Nas who were starting to make mainstream noise. Were you looking up to BX artists like that as a young kid or did their success make them feel a million miles away from where you were at?
“I mean, Lord Tariq and them, as young emcees we definitely looked up to them. I’d never actually seen Tariq or Money Boss in person because I’m not from their section of the Bronx. Tariq was from the Soundview area and I’m more real southern Bronx, around about the 150s and the 130s. But I did used to see Fat Joe back then. Joe used to have his store on Third Avenue, right next to the Shrimp Box where I met DMX (laughs). This was when he first came out with his 560 clothing line and he opened up his store in the Bronx. So, Fat Joe used to be up there all the time and I remember Shyheim used to come through as well. I remember seeing Big Pun up in there one time as well, but this was before Pun had even come out. I just saw this big dude up in the store and thought it was Fat Joe’s brother (laughs). But Joe was from Forest which isn’t too far away from my projects, so he used to always be around the area.”
So how and when did the link with D.I.T.C. happen?
“I hooked-up with D-Flow first. My man Dunn Dee had known Flow for years because our project buildings aren’t too far from each other. So Flow and Party Arty used to be in my hood all the time and they knew my man Dunn Dee who I used to rhyme with and then he actually ended up managing me. I put a mix-tape out called “The Landlord” around 2004 and while I was working on my second mix-tape project, Dee let D-Flow hear the first one. He came to my hood and I guess he liked the mix-tape because he was like, ‘Yo! You should come to the studio and record.’ So the first time I went there me and Flow actually did a song together. It wasn’t even planned or nothing like that but he heard what I was doing and was like, ‘Yo, I’ve got something for that too.’ The song actually came out dope (laughs). So I just kept going up to Flow’s studio to record and then after awhile he approached me and my man Dunn Dee and told us that he wanted me to be a part of Get Dirty. Flow broke everything down to me and told me that he still wanted me to do my music the way that I was doing it, but that I’d rep the brand and all that. I was definitely cool with it and I met Party Arty and all of that. Arty was crazy cool and he treated me like a brother from the gate. Both Flow and Arty really treated me like family from the jump.”
Did you have to get the official stamp of approval from Showbiz?
“The first time I met Show, I’d gone to the studio with D-Flow to record. We’d gone down to D&D, which is now HeadQCourterz, and that was the first time I met Show. He didn’t really pay attention to me at the time because he wasn’t even really there for that. I just gave him a pound and that was it, y’know. But then Flow kept saying that he was going to tell Show that we should do a group and he was telling me about Milano. But anyway, Flow kept saying that he was going to tell Showbiz about me. So, I waited patiently and it was probably about a year after that when Flow took me down to D&D and let Show hear my music. All three of us were sitting in the room listening to my music and Show was saying that he liked it and that he also really liked my concepts. That was something that I always tried to do, have concepts, because I can rap all day but I really wanted to show people that I could actually structure a song. So anyway, Show liked the music and it was on from there. But the first few times we went to the studio after that, we didn’t even record no music, we were just in there having conversations and building. That’s what I like about Show, the fact that we didn’t just jump straight into the music, we were in there having conversations about everything from just life in general to Hip-Hop and whatever else.”
Considering at this point you were starting to mix with some real Hip-Hop legends, were you fully aware of the legacy that Diggin’ In The Crates had already created?
“Yeah, I definitely was. I mean, I used to see A.G. around my hood and I already knew that he was a legend because the older guys around me were putting me on to the music that Show & A.G. had already put out. I always thought they were dope, Show with the beats and those drums…”
It’s almost impossible to talk about Showbiz without mentioning drums…
“Exactly (laughs). So to have the opportunity to actually work around people like that was just so dope to me. When Show first told me that he liked my music I went home and I was just so happy (laughs). I went home to my girl like, ‘Yo! He liked my s**t!”
When you then started recording with D-Flow and Milano as Barbury’N, did you feel a lot of pressure considering they were already established and respected, while you were a new name to a lot of people?
“I definitely felt that pressure but I liked it though (laughs). I knew that people really weren’t expecting anything from me because most people had never really heard of me before. You had Milano, you got D-Flow and then you got this kid Majestic Gage and I knew people were going to be like, ‘Who’s that?’ But I feel that whole situation really helped me get better as an emcee and it really let me showcase my talents alongside two already respected lyricists. I’m just really glad that both Flow and Milano let me work with them on the Barbury’N music like they did because they were already veterans and they really didn’t have to let the young boy into their circle. So I really do thank them for that.”
Barbury’N – “Living At Still” (D.I.T.C. Entertainment / 2011)
Lyricism is obviously something that’s very important to you, but what keeps you on that creative path of putting so much effort into your writing considering how quick people are to accept simple, throwaway rhymes today?
“Number one, it’s just because I love to be super lyrical, y’know. That’s the era I came up in when dudes were just super nice. You had to be nice. That’s just something that I’ve always stuck to regardless of what the climate of the game might be. But also, I keep doing it for people like yourself who’re still checking for it. I do it for people who still want to really listen to lyrics. So I don’t mind going against the grain with my music and swimming upstream because I feel like the game’s going to come full circle and it’s going to get back to being about people’s skills. But that’s why I still make my music like that, because I know there’s still people out there that love to listen to music like that. That’s what I love to listen to. I mean, I understand that not everyone can be lyrical. But I have the ability to do that, so why not put my best foot forward every time and deliver that, y’know.”
Also, with the Diggin’ In The Crates affiliation and lyricism really being at the heart of the music the crew have released over the years, you really have an obligation to carry on that tradition…
“Definitely. The core D.I.T.C. fans won’t expect anything less than that. So I definitely have to deliver on that aspect. I mean, sometimes I think it was destined for me to land in this position with Diggin’ In The Crates because they’re such a staple of the Bronx. Obviously, Big L was from Harlem and O.C. repped for Brooklyn, but the original members like Diamond D, Lord Finesse, Showbiz & AG, they’re all from the Bronx, so I definitely think it was meant for me to be here.”
Recently there’s been a lot of discussion around New York stations like Hot 97 not being totally supportive of underground New York artists and Old Man Ebro’s Minors / Majors comparison has generated a lot of feedback. What are your thoughts on that?
“I mean, I tell people all the time, the climate of the game is so different now that you don’t need stations like that to win. You don’t need Hot 97 to win. You don’t need Power 105 to win. I mean, it’s great to get your records played on there and it definitely helps, but you can still get your music out there without them. Plus, the deejays up at those stations, they can’t really choose what they want to play, they get told what to play. I mean, I run into people all the time that say they don’t want to hear the same ten or twelve records all day. But as far as the artists here in New York who do still cater to that traditional sound, they’re coming up and it’s through others means of winning aside from the radio. Dudes like Action Bronson and Joey Badass, they get radio spins now but they put that work in themselves so the radio had to take notice. Then you’ve got other artists like Spit Gemz who’re doing their thing. I mean, the radio situation is what it is, but as New York artists we can’t lose our identity through trying to follow trends because trends only last so long, y’know. I just feel like we shouldn’t be making records just to get them played on the radio. I mean, we’re at a point now where some dudes have hooks that are longer than there actual verses (laughs).”
What’s the status of the forthcoming D.I.T.C. compilation project that was announced last year featuring yourself, A-Bless and Tashane?
“All the music for that is done. I mean, A.G. and Show have got some other things that they’re working on and obviously they announced the remix album project with a variety of producers working on there. But the compilation is definitely still in the pipeline and all the music is done, all the videos are done and everything. A.G. is on a bunch of joints on the album, but it’s basically just focusing on the next generation of Diggin’ In The Crates. Show and them didn’t want to take too much of the shine away from us by having everyone on the album. But I do understand that when some of the fans see that name Diggin’ In The Crates they do want to hear the original members. I do get that. I read the comments on the Internet and everything. But this compilation project is about those same original members passing the torch to us so we can continue that legacy. I mean, a few years ago you had people talking about the generation gap in Hip-Hop and how some of the younger cats didn’t respect the artform and how some of the older cats weren’t giving younger artists a chance. But now that gap is actually being bridged by what D.I.T.C. are doing, some of those same fans who were talking about that generation gap don’t want to accept the music. But this isn’t something that you see happening a lot, with respected older artists putting out talented new artists and really embracing what they’re doing. But those negative comments didn’t surprise me when I first started reading them. I mean, Showbiz prepared us for it early on and he told us that there would be people out there who didn’t want to accept us as part of Diggin’ In The Crates. So when I started seeing those comments, I was just like, ‘Show said this would happen a looooong time ago.'”
Everyone really represented in that D.I.T.C. cipher video that was released last year with A.G. and DJ Premier, but it was definitely sad to hear about the passing of Tashane not long after that…
“Yeah, definitely. I mean, it was so dope to put that video together. Myself, A-Bless and Tashane all had a really good relationship already because we’d been recording songs together before we actually did that video. We were all just hungry. So for the three of us to be around Premier, Showbiz, O.C., A.G. and Lord Finesse, it was just dope for them to let us rock out like that. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I can remember Tashane joking around like, ‘I ain’t got my rhymes, son. Let me hear what you got?’ I was like, ‘Nah, son.’ (Laughs). But Tashane was just super talented and creative. He was passionate about everything he did. Even when he was just talking, you could hear his passion when he would just speak. That was just him. Everything he said, he meant it, although he was also a joker as well. But when it came down to that music, he was definitely on it. So him passing was definitely a real loss.”
So what can people expect from you next as a solo artist?
“I got music, y’know. I could put out a project tomorrow if I wanted to. But I don’t want it to get mixed up with the D.I.T.C. compilation. I’ve got some songs that I want to release, so I’m going to be putting those out with some visuals just to keep feeding the people something. Then, eventually I will be dropping a project. Hopefully that will be sometime this year. I just really want to be consistent with putting the music out because nowadays people can forget about you real quick. But I’m not going to put just anything out for the sake of it. I definitely want the music I put out there to really leave an impression on people. So this year, I really want the people to be able to get to know me better through my music.”
Follow Majestic Gage on Twitter – @MajesticGage
Majestic Gage – “Fair Warning” (Majestic Gage Music / 2014)
Those of you out there who keep your ear close to the gritty Hip-Hop underground will no doubt already be familiar with Bronx-bred emcee The Almighty $amhill.
Making a memorable contribution to the P Brothers’ 2008 album “The Gas” alongside the likes of Milano Constantine and Roc Marciano, the Rotten Apple representative has also dropped a number of impressive street tracks whilst working on various official projects, mixing his honest and unapologetically raw approach to lyricism with rugged, soul-drenched production.
Having recently released his free EP project “The Preface” via Unkut.Com, the East Coast talent is currently putting the finishing touches to his debut album “The $amhill Story” which is scheduled to drop this summer and promises more of the wordsmith’s trademark New York straight talk.
Whilst $am was taking a break from the lab, I threw him a selection of my own personal favourite tracks to have emerged from the birthplace of Hip-Hop to see what memories, thoughts and opinions they may provoke.
The Bronx is back…
Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Ego Trippin'” (Next Plateau Records /1986)
$amhill: “That s**t was crazy! What’s funny about Ultramagnetic MC’s is that them dudes is from my neighbourhood. Some them is from 159th Street & Washington and 3rd Avenue. I remember I used to see Ced Gee over there all time as a little boy. I would hear “Ego Trippin'” at the jams in the park and people would lose their minds. What was crazy though, was that dudes like Ultramagnetic were people I’d see in the community before I saw them on TV or anything like that. You’d see them around and people would be like, ‘Yo, that’s the dude from Ultramagnetic MC’s.’ So for me to then see them on Video Music Box after that was kinda bugged out. But that song was so dope to me because of that f**kin’ beat. It was just so knockin’! The drums were crazy and then that piano came in. That song was literally magnetic. It drew you to it. If you were a music head then you were drawn to “Ego Trippin'” not just because of the s**t that they were saying on there, but how they were saying it over that beat. That song made you want to move. I mean, Hip-Hop back then was like how soul music used to be, where you felt it from the inside first. What also bugged me out about that record was that when I first heard it, it kinda seemed like they were going at Run DMC with the lines about Peter Piper. I remember listening to that as a little boy thinking, ‘Hold on?! Are they shi**ing on Run DMC?!’ (laughs) It was songs like “Ego Trippin'” that made me realise that I like my music hardcore.”
Boogie-Down Productions – “The Bridge Is Over” (B-Boy Records / 1987)
$amhill: “I was a little boy when that record came out, man. That was one of those songs I’d hear when they used to have the jams in the park and everyone would bring their s**t out and plug into the street-light. But man, when that beat would come on with that piano, that s**t would be pandemonium. I had two older sisters and a brother and they would take me to the jams and I’d break away from them just acting crazy in the park taking it all in. I was young at the time and I didn’t really understand that KRS was beefin’ with Marley Marl and them, but the overall feel of that record was incredible. It was only after I saw the video on Video Music Box and then started to listen to Marley Marl and Red Alert on the radio that I realised what was happening with them.
But that song was so powerful because it was representing where we were from and it was also letting people know that Hip-Hop started in The Bronx and you’ll respect that or we’ll run right through you. With me growing-up in Hip-Hop, I had to recognise that that song was monumental. I mean, KRS was really disrespecting people on “The Bridge Is Over” (laughs).
I was in elementary school when that song dropped and rap was the consistent topic everyday that everyone would be talking about. So off of us talking about “The Bridge Is Over”, I also started to learn more about MC Shan, Craig G, Roxanne Shante and other people that were doing this music in other places. So I had to recognise that there were other people doing Hip-Hop in other parts of New York City. But from that moment right there I’ve always loved KRS-One as an emcee. I mean, he was born in Brooklyn but he’s always represented The Bronx and seeing him do that back then let me know early on that you have to represent where you’re from in this rap s**t and really be proud of it.”
Just-Ice – “Going Way Back” (Fresh Records / 1987)
$amhill: “That record is a classic. Around the time that “Going Way Back” came out the park jams were slowly dying down in The Bronx because people were getting killed and there’d always be something going on like a shootout. So the jams in the park were really getting shut down. So now you’d be hearing records first on the radio with Mr. Magic’s show and Red Alert and then a couple of weeks later Ralph McDaniels would be playing the video on Video Music Box.
Now, the thing with Just-Ice is that he was a street ni**a. He’s a dude that would handle what he needed to handle in his own way. A lot of people didn’t know that about Just-Ice then unless you were from The Bronx. But to hear him on that record talking about how he was there when certain things happened in The Bronx, Zulu Nation, this, that and a third, it really felt like he was teaching me and putting me onto some s**t that I really didn’t know about. But that record was so hardcore and Just-Ice always used to wear those leather rasta hats which he had on in the video. The part I always remember is when Just-Ice says ‘Yo KRS! What’s the purpose of you stopping me?’ (laughs).
The beat to that song was so strong and his voice was so aggressive but at the same time he was teaching me. It reminded me in some ways of someone like a Farrakhan, because he was always very aggressive in delivering his lessons. I learnt from listening to Farrakhan that if you’re not aggressive in the way you deliver your message then a lot of people won’t take you seriously. So when Just-Ice was telling me on “Going Way Back” about certain blocks and how if you don’t know what happened with this person then you wasn’t there, I had to listen to him because he was both commanding and demanding your attention. He was giving you a history lesson that you had to pay attention to.”
Tim Dog – “F**k Compton” (Ruffhouse Records / 1991)
$amhill: “That record had a major impact on me and my whole entire neighbourhood because Tim Dog lived just a couple of buildings away from me. But the funny s**t about that is that I didn’t actually know that then (laughs). I guess the older dudes I was hanging around with already knew Tim Dog from around the way and of course he already had the Ultra affiliation. But when that song came out it was wild aggressive, it was ignorant, it was disrespectful, and we loved it (laughs). We loved everything about it. But at first it confused me why he was dissing certain people on that record because I f**ked with N.W.A.. I loved aggressive, hardcore sounding s**t and at the time N.W.A. was the epitome of that type of style and the way they were coming with it was just so real. I mean, back then, as a little boy I used to think rappers like the Geto Boys and N.W.A . would really come to my mother’s house and kill everybody there (laughs). Like, seeing the video to N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” I thought Ice Cube was going to bust through the TV screen and kill somebody. Then when Tim Dog came out and was like ‘F**k them! This is where I’m from and this is what I’m about’ I was like, ‘Yooooo! Hold on, man Who is this?’
I mean, I wasn’t taking sides or none of that, but Tim Dog was really staking his claim and it was hot! I remember buggin’ out how he dissed Michel’le like that because it was just so uncalled for (laughs). I also remember buggin’ over how he actually came on the record with ‘Awwww shit…’ I was like, ‘How do you just come on a record with ‘Awwww shit…’?’ I was a kid at the time and curse words intrigued me, I was always cursing someone out, so when a ni**a would be cursing everyone out that would be the funniest s**t in the world to me. So when Tim Dog did that on “F**k Compton” I thought the dude had lost his mind but I loved it. And it was more than just being about the fact that Tim Dog was from my block, it was about the fact that he had to have some f**kin’ balls to do what he did on that record. He went at the whole of Compton! I mean, I couldn’t be mad at DJ Quik, MC Eiht or any of those dudes for going back at him or dissing the Bronx. I mean, I liked DJ Quik and MC Eiht. Their music wasn’t getting played on New York radio at the time but their videos would be on Video Music Box and I was like, ‘Yo, these dudes have really got a story to tell.’ But Tim Dog was just like, ‘F**k your story!’ He really didn’t care (laughs).
After that I had to get “Penicillin On Wax” when it came out. I mean, everybody in my mother’s neighbourhood was listening to “Penicillin On Wax” because Tim Dog was from the block and that album was crazy! Nobody could say that Tim Dog was wack. But what I took from Tim Dog back then was the realisation that you can do exactly what you want to do with your life and not give a f**k about what anyone else has to say about it.”
Showbiz & A.G. – “Soul Clap” (Mercury Records / 1992)
$amhill: “Well, I can honestly say that Showbiz & A.G. really made me want to be $amhill even more and pursue this music. I used to hear “Soul Clap” on the radio and I remember the EP they had that it was on because I bought it. I s**t you not, I used to buy everything on bootleg back then (laughs). The bootleg man used to be up the block next to McRogers, which was my neighbourhood’s bootleg McDonalds (laughs). So the tape man would be there and sell everything for two dollars. I used to have thousands of those tapes. But I got Showbiz & A.G.’s first s**t with “Soul Clap” on there and that record was crazy to me. The bassline on there was just so breathtaking. I’d be walking to school listening to those dudes in my headphones and I loved what they were doing.
To me, A.G. is the epitome of the evolving emcee. From how he rhymed on Lord Finesse’s first album “Funky Technician”, to how he rhymed on his own early s**t, to how he rhymes now, you can hear that was somebody who wanted to get better every time he came out. A.G. didn’t take what he did as a joke. You could tell he wanted people to know rhyming was what he loved to do and that came across in the music. A.G. is definitely the epitome of an emcee to me.
As for Showbiz, I remember the first time I saw their video for “Fat Pockets” on Video Music Box and then went outside afterwards and saw him on the f**kin’ corner, that s**t changed my life forever. It made me realise that even with all the music stuff, Showbiz and A.G. were just regular dudes from my community. Seeing them around like that really made me follow everything they did and it let me know that I could do it to just by being me. But around that time, I was about fourteen or fifteen years old, I’d be at house parties and when “Soul Clap” would come on the whole place would go crazy because that song was so funky.
I have such a profound respect for both of them. A.G.’s brother Wally World is one of my producers who I’ve done a whole bunch of stuff with. Two years ago I had about a two or three hour conversation with Showbiz in his studio. This dude I used to be cool with took me down there to meet him because I was always saying that Showbiz & A.G. were the reason why I was doing this. So I was introduced to Showbiz and we ended up having a three hour conversation about God and spirituality. He asked to hear my music and he respected what I was doing. I was telling him how I used to see him around the neighbourhood when I was a little boy and how he would have all this jewellery on and be looking so fly, and he was just sat there staring at me like, ‘Wow! Just off of me being me, this young ni**a is doing what he’s doing now.’ But I really respected Showbiz for taking the time to hear me out and to speak to me about the things that we did.
Same thing with A.G., I remember seeing him at a radio station a couple of years ago and he was saying how if something isn’t about the truth then he doesn’t want to speak about it because he’s so connected to wanting to spread the knowledge of God and that s**t literally sent chills down my spine.
But to me, Showbiz & A.G. have never done anything wack. They’ve consistently evolved and that’s what I’ve always loved about them. It would be a dream come true for me to do a song with Show & A.G. just off the strength of the impact those two men had on my life before they ever even knew anything about me.”
Fat Joe – “Flow Joe” (Relativity Records / 1993)
$amhill: “It’s funny that you say that s**t because “Flow Joe” is one of my personal favourites as well. I remember seeing when Fat Joe was filming that video. But it really impacted me because I remember when Red Alert used to play a short version of the song as a promo on his radio show with the ‘Everybody know Fat Joe’s in town…’ verse. I used to sit there and wait for that promo to come on when I’d be listening to the radio. That Diamond D beat was so hardcore and the way it dropped with the kick and the snare was just incredible to me. Back then you could buy the cassette maxi-singles with the instrumental on it and I picked that up and used to play that s**t all the time.
That s**t was so dope to me. I mean, what Fat Joe was saying on there in his lyrics was good and it was cool for what it was, but the s**t that was just so crazy about that track was that beat. The music was just so cinematic and I don’t know how many people got that same feeling from it that I did. It made me want to get into Fat Joe even more and see where he was coming from with his music. I mean, the founding members of D.I.T.C. being from the Bronx just made such an impression on me because I would just see these dudes walking around. It just made me believe that if I wanted to do this music thing then I could do it.
But going back to that track, if anyone ever asked me what my favourite Fat Joe tracks were I would have to say “Flow Joe” and “Respect Mine” off the second album. I always preferred the version of “Flow Joe” they did the video for rather than the one that was on the first album. But that album “Represent” was crazy. I remember I always wanted to rap over the beat that was used on the interlude “My Man Ski”. When I was in high-school there was a talent show and I was going to be in it and the beat on that interlude was so dope so I looped it up on the tape-deck and I was going to do a freestyle to it. But then I got kicked out of the show because I was being stupid (laughs).”
Money Boss Players – “Crap Game” (Warning Records / 1996)
$amhill: “Hmmmm. It’s like this man, the best thing about Money Boss Players is Lord Tariq and I’ma leave it at that. You can print that. The best thing about Money Boss is Lord Tariq and that’s all I have to say on it. It is what it is. I just don’t really f**k with that. I got respect for Lord Tariq and I’ve learnt that Lord Tariq has respect for me and my music and I’ll leave it at that.”
Big Pun – “I’m Not A Player” (Loud Records / 1997)
$amhill: “The original mix of that song is crazy. Big Pun was an intriguing dude to me. I mean, I never knew him personally, I just knew of him from the community. You remember the remix video where he’s riding around on that scooter? Pun would actually ride around the Bronx on that f**kin’ scooter. I would see Pun’s big ass on that scooter riding around Home Street, Boston Road, Forest Projects, I would see him do that. But the original version of that song was so crazy to me because I love soul music and the way that O’Jays sample was flipped was so dope. Then on top of that I had to respect the lyrical ability of Big Pun as well. I remember thinking how he reminded me of Kool G. Rap when I first heard him, not to where he was biting his style, but like Big L and Lord Finesse, Pun just enhanced that style and was the next generation. I just thought he was f**kin’ nice.
When Pun came out Hip-Hop was getting into some other s**t but he was still able to remain himself and keep it street. I mean, that “Capital Punishment” album was off-the-wall! You could tell there were certain tracks on there where Pun was trying to reach for that commercial appeal, but overall he did his thing on there. It always seemed to me that Pun knew what he wanted to do with his music and he did exactly that. I mean, Pun passed away in 2000, it’s now thirteen years after his death and we still haven’t had another new emcee come through from anywhere and make that type of impact to say I’m one of those next ni**as who’s going to be respected as legendary status.”
Follow $amhill on Twitter @MoeMiller96 and lookout for the full album “The $amhill Story” coming later this year.
Life MC – “Pun Wars” (@LifeMC / 2012)
The Phi-Life Cypher member drops some bars over Big Pun’s 90s favourite “You Ain’t A Killer” for a forthcoming mixtape project.
The D.I.T.C. affiliate drops this new mixtape featuring classic collaborations with the likes of Showbiz, The P Brothers and Big Pun plus material from his new crew Barbury’N – download here for a heavy dose of that Rotten Apple rap.
X-ecutioners member Total Eclipse follows-up his recent Jay-Z / Jay Electronica / J Dilla project “The J Tape” with this new dose of mash-ups and remixes featuring vocals from the likes of Big L, Big Pun and Black Moon over the production of Detroit’s Black Milk – peep the musical madness here.
Legendary mix king DJ Doo Wop teams-up with TheSource.Com to drop this digital project which, in the spirit of his classic 90s tapes, pulls together a mix of underground freestyles and thorough bangers – download Side A and Side B then slip the headphones on and zone out with the likes of Sadat X, John Robinson, Reks, Rashad & Confidence, O.C. and more.
Aviles of BeAllMighty.Com pays a timely tribute to two of Hip-Hop’s fallen greats with this Pun / Dilla blend project – download here.
Armageddon – “Run Away” (Geddy Music / 2010)
Taken from the Terror Squad affiliate’s forthcoming EP “The Journal Vol 1: Rebirth”.
Joey Crack reminisces about a drunk Big Pun while promoting his new album “The Darkside”.
Terror Squad’s Armageddon drops a quick verse for the camera.
Late-90s roundtable discussion on the science of rhyming featuring Big Pun, DMX, Canibus, Mos Def and John Forte.
Joey Crack asks RealTalkNY why he’s not the people’s choice and explains the reasons for the title of his forthcoming 2008 album.
Now call me a hater if you want, but I did used to rate Fat Joe as one of my favourite rappers when he was making joints like these….
Fat Joe – “Flow Joe” (Relativity / 1993)
Big Pun ft. Fat Joe – “Twinz” (Loud / 1998)
DJ Honda ft. The Beatnuts & Fat Joe – “Out For The Cash” (Relativity / 1996)
D.I.T.C. ft. Big L & Fat Joe – “The Enemy” (D.I.T.C. / 1997)
But then the Don Cartagena started making tracks like this…..
Fat Joe ft. Lil Wayne – “Make It Rain” (Virgin / 2006)
Now tell me, which Fat Joe do you prefer???!!!