Tag Archives: Chris Lighty

Old To The New Q&A – Omniscence (Part Three)

omni pic 17

In this third part of my interview with North Carolina’s Omniscence, the talented lyricist discusses signing with EastWest Records in the mid-90s, recording his shelved debut album “The Raw Factor” and being awarded Rhyme Of The Month in The Source – check Part One and Part Two.

How did Vincent Herbert and 3 Boyz From Newark become involved in your career?

“So, Vincert Herbert came to us and obviously he was more known as being an R&B guy. He’d done stuff with Christopher Williams, Babyface and some other high profile R&B stuff. But what happened was, he’d come to Charlotte, North Carolina to a radio station on some other business. Now, the deejay at the station was called DC and he was our man from back in the day. He was actually the quiet storm deejay on the station playing the R&B songs and there definitely wasn’t no Hip-Hop stuff going down on his show (laughs). Vincent was promoting a particular act or record, I’m not really sure, but he’d come by DC’s show and they started talking. DC asked Vincent if he was looking for any new artists and if he was, would he consider signing a Hip-Hop artist. DC played Vincent “Gotta Maintain” off the “Funky One Liner” EP and he loved it. So that was what first got Vincent interested in signing me. Simultaneously, whilst Vincent is trying to sign us, Biggest Gord and Enid Shor are in New York putting this potential deal together with Chris Lighty. Vincent was saying that he wanted to sign both me and Fanatic, with Fanatic getting a production deal, but the deal Gord and Enid were putting together with Chris Lighty was just for me only as an artist.”

So was that swaying your decision, the fact that one deal was for both of you and the other deal on the table was for you only?

“Yeah, yeah. I mean, I wasn’t about to turn my back on Fanatic, even though he would have still been involved in any project I did, but the plan was for both of us to get signed, which is what Vincent was offering. I remember Vincent was always in the Benz with all the jewellery on which kinda amazed both me and Fanatic because he was younger than both of us (laughs). I mean, I’d have been around twenty-two years old at this time and Vincent must have been about nineteen or twenty. He always had money (laughs). But long story short, Vincent flew both me and Fanatic up to New York, put us in a hotel room, told us to kick back, relax and he was going to be back the next day so we could sign the paperwork. I’m thinking, ‘Yo, I don’t know if this is the right move or not’ because I’d met so many wonderful people through Enid so I was wondering what might happen there. I mean, through her and Biggest Gord, I got to meet pretty much the whole Gang Starr Foundation, like Bahamadia, Malachi The Nutcracker and a few of the other guys. Now, this is something that I have to live with everyday, that potentially I could have fallen under the wing of Chris Lighty business-wise and the musical umbrella of DJ Premier (laughs). That would have truly been out of this world. But everything happens for a reason.”

So why did you eventually decide not to sign with Chris Lighty and Violator?

“Well, this is what happened. Fanatic and I are sat up in this hotel room having some heated arguments about which direction we should go in (laughs). Obviously, one direction didn’t involve him, although I was loyal to Fanatic so I would never have left him behind, but the other direction meant that both of us would be part of the deal. Now, Enid had called my mom back home in Bear Creek looking to speak to me about something. My mom doesn’t really know what’s going on so she’s like, ‘Oh, he’s in New York.’ So Enid asked my mom if she could get in touch with me and when I called home my mom passed the message on for me to call Enid. I called her up and she’s like, ‘What are you doing in New York?’ I was like, ‘Yo, we’re getting ready to sign this deal with Vincent Herbert.’ She was saying, ‘No, no, you’re getting ready to make one of the biggest mistakes of your life.’ I was telling her that this deal was Fanatic’s opportunity as well because he’d put everything into me as an artist and that was something that I really had to keep in mind while deciding which deal to take. Enid was like, ‘Don’t go anywhere, I’m going to get Chris Lighty to call you right now.’ Sure enough, two minutes later the phone rings, Fanatic answers, passes me the phone and it’s Chris Lighty. We started talking and I explained to him that I was looking to move in a direction that would benefit both me and Fanatic. I remember Chris saying, ‘Yo, I know Vincent, he’s a good dude, but he’s an R&B guy.’ I mean, this would have been around winter 1994. But we were talking and Chris was telling me how much he liked my music and that when he listened to what me and Fanatic were doing it put him in mind of a group like a Black Moon. He actually told me that Black Moon were a group that he’d wanted to get his hands on as well, but for some reason that never really happened. Chris said to me, ‘Yo, if you give me this opportunity to work with you, I will make sure that your music does not get diluted in any way, but yet you will still see the numbers you need to see.'”

ChrisLighty_CM

It definitely sounds like Lighty was giving you a strong sales pitch…

“I remember saying to Chris, ‘Yo, I know who you are Mr. Lighty and it’s a real honour that you would even be speaking to me right now on this phone. But I think we’re going to go ahead and go in the direction that we spoke about with Vincent.’ He was like, ‘Alright, man. Good luck’ and hung up the phone. I didn’t talk to him again after that (laughs). But rest in peace to Chris Lighty, man. I mean, I’ll be honest with you, for a long time I kicked myself over making that decision not to sign with him. But anyway, we went ahead and signed the deal with Vincert Herbert.”

So you’ve signed to EastWest Records through Vincent Herbert and now you’re part of the Elektra family which already included the likes of Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Brand Nubian, Leaders Of The New School etc. You must have thought you’d made it at that point?

“Exactly (laughs). At the time, I got over the Chris Lighty situation quick once we got signed (laughs). It was time to do work now. So we got signed, we got our little budget, money was coming in and things were moving. Now, keep in mind, I’m from Bear Creek, North Carolina, and now here we are up in the big city, not just as visitors for the New Music Seminar, but we’re living in the city now and I’m a new, upcoming artist. Everything was moving so fast. I’ll never forget those initial recordings we did. I mean, we recording what was supposed to be the “Raw Factor” album at the Hit Factory in downtown Manhattan, which was this real, upscale studio. Now, I remember saying how I wanted to keep the vibe on the same train as the “Funky One Liner EP”, but by this time, in early 1995, Biggie was on the scene and had really made an impact. I mean, Biggie was really one of the first times that a raw emcee like that had been able to make both the underground records and the radio records. With the music he was making with Puffy, he was really showing you how to make both types of record. Biggie was really doing it and of course Puffy had started using the old 80s samples and loops, so a lot of labels were looking for artists to pull that formula off, including Vincent Herbert because he already had that R&B background anyway. But inside, I was thinking, ‘Nah, this is the vibe I’m about. I’m in this other lane over here.'”

omni pic 2

Had you discussed the possibility of attempting to achieve that underground / radio balance with Vincent prior to you being signed or was that a conversation that came after you’d done the deal with EastWest?

“Right, right. It was after Biggie had really made a mark that we started talking about that particular sound. I actually remember me and Fanatic sitting down with Vincent just after we’d signed and discussing the fact that even though they’d been on the EP, we wanted “Gotta Maintain” on the album, which was a record Vincent liked, and we also wanted “I’m On Mine” on there as well. We wanted those two records on “The Raw Factor”. So we’d told Vincent that we wanted to keep that original raw side of our sound, although we did obviously understand that we were in the music business now. But I really trusted Fanatic, so I knew whatever sample we might have used, he was still going to come hard with the drums, like with “Touch Y’all” and even “Amazin'”, although that was the only track on “The Raw Factor” that Fanatic didn’t produce (note: the original “LP Version” of “Amazin'” was produced by Rheji Burrell of 3 Boyz From Newark). So I was never too wary of what we were doing, but I was aware that the sound was changing compared to what we’d originally come in the door with.”

Around that 1995 period there were definitely plenty of artists who were starting to follow that Bad Boy Records blueprint… 

“Exactly. So that’s why when you listen to “The Raw Factor”, I was conscious of what was happening with the music, so I made sure that I kept that griminess in my voice. Which, at the time, I remember thinking created a very different sound. But I love those records, man. To be honest, I like them more now than I did back then because I was a little upset about the transition the music was going through (laughs).”

omni pic 22

Elektra put out a promo project in 1995 called “iLLSTYLE LiVE!” which featured performances from yourself and label-mates such as Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Das EFX, Supernatural, Juggaknotz etc. Firstly, I wanted to ask you what you remember from that night, and secondly, do you recall noticing a reaction from the audience when you dropped that Mary J. Blige bi-sexual line during your intro?

“This is another Funkenklein thing, right (laughs). I love it. Okay, let me answer the first part of the question. By the time that event happened, we were probably about eight or nine tracks into the recording of “The Raw Factor”. “Amazin'” had already been recorded and that was due to be the first single. To this day, I kinda wish that had been the official first single. I mean, even Fanatic had come to me, even though it was the one song he hadn’t produced, and told me that was the joint we should have gone with and done the video for rather than “Touch Y’all”. But at any rate, we got the call from the label headquarters, Sylvia Rhone, to say they were going to do a showcase and they wanted all the artists to come to this particular location. It was kinda weird actually because it was in somewhere that was more like a warehouse rather than being in a club situation or anything like that. Believe it or not, there wasn’t actually that many people there because it was an industry function so it was just industry people there rather than fans being involved. But I remember coming in and the first people I got to rub elbows with were Daddy D, who was signed to the label, and MC Lyte and Lin Que were there, so I spoke to them for a little bit and expressed my utmost respect to both of them. I remember, everybody wasn’t there at the same time. So people like Busta Rhymes, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Das EFX, they all came in later in the night because we were the newer artists, so we were performing earlier than them. But see, I’m not the type of guy to be running up on cats like, ‘This is me! I’m your label-mate!’ So I wasn’t particularly sitting down and chopping it up with everyone (laughs). But I do definitely remember Ol’ Dirty buggin’ out that night (laughs). He bugged out! I got to holla at him for a minute and I’ll tell you the truth, Ol’ DB was like, ‘Yo! I don’t know who the f**k you are, but if you’re getting in this industry s**t then be ready because these muthaf**kers are devils’ I was just like, ‘Yo, there it is. That’s Ol’ DB’ (laughs). I got to chop it up with my man Rampage from Flipmode as well. I also remember at the end of the night we all got together and Sylvia was saying how proud she was of what we’d all done and made us aware that the label were going to put it out as a release. So it did feel like I was kinda in a family before it was all said and done, but after that night we never reunited like that again. Other than my man Supernatural, as we definitely stayed in touch and would meet up, freestyle and just hang out. Out of everybody, he’s the one person during that era that I could say outside of the label functions etc, we would make an effort to hook-up and talk.”

So what about that Mary J. Blige line?

“Damn, I thought I was going to be able to talk long enough for you to forget that part of the question (laughs). I mean, at the time there was a rumour going around that Mary went both ways. I had the utmost respect for Mary J. and she was like the Queen of Hip-Hop at the time. But I was always into the rhymes that would make your jawdrop, like some of the things that a Lord Finesse would say. Nas was someone else who had that impact on me with some of his earlier records like “Half Time” with some of the imagery he was using. He would say some things that were just so ill, man. I mean, in some ways there are some things that you should never really speak on, but then on an emcee level you have to take it there (laughs). I just wanted to grab people’s attention with what I was saying. So with the Mary line, that was something people were talking about all the time in the street, so I just wanted to throw it in there (laughs). But I definitely did see some raised eyebrows among some of those industry cats who were there that night (laughs). I wouldn’t say there was a huge gasp when I said it, but I definitely remember thinking that people had heard what I said and it had got some attention (laughs).”

Omniscence – “Amazin’ – Live Version With Intro” (1995 / Elektra)

What did it mean to you when you were awarded Rhyme Of The Month for one of your verses off “Amazin'” in the October 1995 issue of The Source?

“It was a big deal to me. I’d been a fan of The Source for so long. I mean, as we discussed earlier in the interview, I’d just been such a big fan of the music and the culture for so long, so to get that Rhyme Of The Month in The Source really meant so much to me. I mean, I remember The Source from when it was just a sheet of paper before it became an actual magazine, so for them to recognise me like that was very big, man. It was just a moment that I’ll never forget.”

Did you already know you were getting that month’s Hip-Hop Quotable before you actually saw the issue?

“I did know that they were going to do a brief write-up on the “Amazin'” single and I was waiting for that particular issue of the magazine to come up so I could read the article. That was crazy in itself, because if you look at the other artists included in that issue’s Sureshot Singles you’ll see that Jay-Z was getting his shot with “In My Lifetime” which was crazy to see considering the little bit of history that we had and with Ski producing that single as well. That was a crazy moment to see that. But anyway, I didn’t know that I was going to get Rhyme Of The Month and I actually saw that first before the single write-up as I was flicking through the pages. I saw it and was just like, ‘Yo! What the…??!!’ (laughs). I was blown away, man. I literally kept going back to that page and just staring at it (laughs). My boys were telling me, ‘Yo, get off your own d**k, man’ (laughs). I was just like, ‘Nah, you don’t understand, man. I just got Rhyme Of The Month in The Source!’ It was a very big deal back then.”

omni pic 15

It was definitely considered a real stamp of approval back then because there were so many talented emcees out at the time who were just as worthy of being given that accolade…

“Exactly, exactly. I mean, I don’t know if there were any politics involved or not. But all I know is that from my end, I didn’t know anybody at The Source like that. I just did a little quick interview with the guy for the single review and he was really feeling “Amazin'”, so he might have gone back and said they should put me in there, I don’t know. But I really appreciated it, man. Being able to say you had Rhyme Of The Month in The Source back then was kinda like a trophy amongst emcees (laughs). I mean, I don’t want you to think I’ve got it framed and hanging on the wall in my hallway when you come in the house, but in my mind it still stands as a big moment for me (laughs).”

Did you notice an increased level of interest in you once that issue of The Source came out?

“Well, shortly after that issue came out the label flew us down to Miami for the How Can I Be Down? conference and various people were coming up to me like, ‘Yo, you’re the guy that got Rhyme Of The Month…’ so I think it definitely contributed towards the buzz on the “Raw Factor” album that was supposed to be coming out. I remember my man Do-It-All from Lords Of The Underground gave me a call to let me know he’d seen it and people were definitely talking about it. But it didn’t influence me in any way as far as the direction I wanted to take my music in, it just made me very appreciative of where I’d gotten to up to that point.”

Ryan Proctor

Check the final part of this interview here.

Omniscence – “Amazin’ – 3 Boyz From Newark Ka-Ka Lak Mix” (EastWest Records / 1995)

Old To The New Q&A – Omniscence (Part Two)

omni pic 19

In this second part of my interview with 90s favourite Omniscence, the North Carolina emcee talks about performing at the New Music Seminar in NYC, recording his debut 1993 EP “The Funky One Liner” and rhyming with a young Jay-Z – check Part One here.

Shortly after that initial run of releases on Payroll Records the crew split with Ski going up to New York – was there ever any talk of you going with him at the time?

“So this is what  happened. When I first came through the door and said those rhymes to Ski, he had immediately introduced me to Fanatic. But it was kinda like the situation when Dipset joined the Roc-A-Fella camp, although obviously on a much smaller scale (laughs). There were already tensions happening within the original crew. So you’re coming into that as a new jack and you’re looking up to all these guys but you don’t know that there are these underlying tensions and the crew is actually getting ready to split. So what happened was, Fanatic, Mark Sparks and Dizzy Dee from B.A.D. Rep decided to stay together in North Carolina and Ski decided to go with Roland Jones and Supreme Nyborn to New York. With both Roland and Nyborn originally being from New York, they decided to go back up there because that’s where everything was happening. I mean, even though the Bizzie Boyz and Nyborn had put those records out which had got some buzz, nothing was happening in North Carolina because of that. When it came to Hip-Hop, it was all happening in New York. So they decided to go up there to make it happen and that’s where the split in the crew came from. So Fanatic and Mark formed a production crew called Def Rhythm Productions, with the name coming from DJ Def, which is what Mark was known as then, and the Rhythm Fanatic. That was actually where I got my first shot on wax when they put out a vinyl compilation called “Back To The Lab” in 1990.”

Which featured your solo track “Lost In The Music”…

“Yeah, that was my debut, man (laughs). There was this local guy called DJ Starchild and we all went over to his house way out in the woods and literally recorded all the vocals for the album in one day. If you listen to the record, you can hear there are no ad-libs or doubling or anything like that. Plus, if you listen to my voice, you can hear I sound totally different on that record to anything else I did afterwards.”

To me, you sound like a mix of Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith’s rhyme styles off the first EPMD album on “Lost In The Music”…

“Right, right, laidback (laughs). For one, my voice hadn’t really developed when we made that record as I was only sixteen-years-old. But also, at that time I enjoyed the smoothness of rhyming. I was a huge Rakim fan and he was one of the first guys to get on who wasn’t screaming or shouting his lyrics. He just had that smoother vibe. But then as time went on, my style started to become a little rougher around the edges as I was becoming a little older and starting to see certain aspects of the street life which were then having an influence on me as an emcee. Plus, Hip-Hop in general was starting to become a little grimier once we started to get up into the early-90s, with groups like Das EFX, Lords Of The Underground, Onyx. Basically, when I made “Lost In The Music” I hadn’t been corrupted yet (laughs).”

omni pic 13

So after Ski had left for New York did he keep in touch at all because at this point I’m assuming he hadn’t met up with Clark Kent and started doing the Original Flavor stuff yet?

“That’s a great question, man. Like I said, it was Ski who introduced me to Fanatic. I’ll never forget there was this one Saturday afternoon when him, Fanatic and myself were going to meet at Mixmaster D of the Bizzie Boyz’ house to go over some beats. The original plan was that I was going to be on the second Payroll compilation and they were recruiting artists at the time to be on that. But the split was happening between the crew at the same time. So Ski never showed up at the house that day and I’ll never forget that Fanatic was very upset about that and was like, ‘Yo, Ski’s on something else, man. He’s got something else going on.’ But I’ll never forget, before Ski went to New York he called my house and was like, ‘Yo, I would love to bring you with me but I know you can’t go.’ I was only sixteen-years-old and I already knew my mom wasn’t going to let me go to New York (laughs). Now, at the time, Ski was still really learning to make beats and Fanatic was the more seasoned producer. I remember Ski telling me, ‘Yo, you’re in good hands with Fanatic, man. You’ve got the beats so you’re good.’ I’ll never forget that conversation. But to answer your question, yeah, Ski would come back to North Carolina from time to time. Then of course, when we put out the “Back To The Lab” compilation under Def Rhythm Productions, we were like, ‘Yo, we’ve gotta go to New York and let this be known.’ I’ll never forget we went to the New Music Seminar in 1990 and we ran into Clark Kent who already knew Fanatic from being in the Bizzie Boyz and he was like, ‘Yo! Where’s Ski, man? I’m looking for Ski!’ He thought Ski was still with us even though there had been that split in the crew and Ski had already gone to New York with Roland and Nyborn. So there was definitely a rivalry there between the two sides of the Payroll camp, although Ski and I were never rivals like that.”

So did the two sides of the crew bump heads at the Seminar that year?

“This is a crazy story, man. I’ve never actually told this story in an interview before. So we’re up there in New York City at the New Music Seminar. Now, the name of our crew was the Over-Due Crew. Obviously we couldn’t run with the name Payroll anymore because the other guys were running with that. Now, there was this showcase at Irving Plaza in Manhattan the weekend of the New Music Seminar. Now, when I say that everybody was there, I mean everybody was there. I’m talking about Poor Righteous Teachers, BDP, Leaders Of The New School before they’d even come out. I remember Poor Righteous Teachers were having a problem with their sound, and Busta Rhymes, who I had no clue of who he was at the time, he jumped onstage and started beat-boxing for them (laughs). Ultramagnetic MC’s were there. Everybody was there. I’ll never forget that night. But I was very, very nervous (laughs). There must have been about forty acts who performed that night, some established and some who were coming up. The night was hosted by Ice-T and a then up-and-coming group from the Native Tongues called Black Sheep (laughs). Which was crazy for me to see because of knowing Lawnge from back in the day. I remember telling Fanatic that Lawnge used to deejay in Sanford and he didn’t believe me (laughs).”

That must have been a mind-blowing experience as a fan of Hip-Hop to be seeing so many huge acts all in the one place?

“I’m really trying to paint a picture for you (laughs). There were just so many people there and it was packed to capacity. I remember, every now and then either Dres or Lawnge would shout-out who was coming up later and I remember they said, ‘Yo! Brand Nubian is in the house tonight!’ and the whole place erupted. I was looking around like, ‘Who is Brand Nubian?!’ (Laughs). I think they had ” Feels So Good” out at that point, but I didn’t know who they were yet (laughs). I’ve also heard Common say he was there that night as well. Anyway, I might have been like act twenty on the bill and Ski and the Payroll crew were on a few acts afterwards. Now, if you remember, during that era everything was very fast-paced and uptempo with people trying to prove that they could rhyme over really fast beats and everything. I remember, everybody before me had come out and was rhyming super-fast. Now, as we said earlier, at this point I was a lot smoother in my style and delivery. We had a record called “Make The Connection” which sampled the “Superman Lover” joint from Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson which nobody had really used yet. It was so smooth and the crowd just really got the opportunity to sit back and listen to my lyrics. I did have two dancers behind me, but even they were cutting some smooth steps (laughs). But everything just went really, really well and I could have so easily messed everything up because I was super nervous (laughs). Well, later on that night Ski and all of them got up onstage, with Mixmaster D on the turntables. Now, both Ski and D were assassins on the mic and turntables, so this is no reflection on the skills of the Bizzie Boyz, but there were just a few things that didn’t go their way on the night. There was a banner that was behind them that fell down whilst Ski was performing and they had to take it back on a couple of records because the turntables were skipping. It just didn’t go well for them, man (laughs). I’ll never forget that night because with my performance going so well, it felt like I was carrying the flag for my crew. I came through that performance and it really gave me a super-boost of confidence that I could actually do this, man.”

It let you know that you had the talent to carry on without the Bizzie Boyz etc being part of the crew…

“Yeah, man. I mean, like I said, there was still a little tension between the crews. Supreme Nyborn went on to make a record called “What If I Was Serious” where he threw a little shot at our crew and he was clowning Fanatic at the end of it.”

omni pic 12

Speaking of lyrics, on the track “Stage Domination” which you recorded in the mid-90s after the East West /Elektra situation, you say a line ‘Back in ’89 I was gassed up by Funkenklein.’ Now around that time, Dave Funkenklein would have been putting his Hollywood BASIC roster together, so I always wondered what that line was in relation to…

“Oh my god (laughs). Yes indeed. Well, I didn’t know Funkenklein personally and never had any dealings with him myself. It was Fanatic and Mark who had made some connections with him. They were dealing with him and they’d always tell me that Funkenklein was loving my “Lost In The Music” joint. So they were always talking about how we were going to try and get some more music to Funkenklein. Now, I never met the man or had anything against him, but back then that line really came out of me wondering what had happened with that situation, because I kept hearing the name Funkenklein from Fanatic and Mark but then nothing came out of it. So I was just throwing it out there. But from what I understand Funkenklein was a fan of what I was doing. Yo, you’re the only guy that’s ever asked me about that line so big-ups to you for that (laughs).”

omni pic 14

So what happened after the success of the Over-Due Crew’s appearance at that 1990 New Music Seminar?

“I mean, in terms of people who were part of the Over-Due Crew, many of whom were included on the “Back To The Lab” project, there was probably about twenty of us, all of whom I hold in high regard. But what happened was, if things ain’t happening then people start to fall off and go in different directions. So our crew got narrowed down to Mark and Fanatic who were the producers and Dizzy and D-Mack who formed a group called Southern Hospitality, plus me as a solo artist. So as time goes on, I’m hanging out with these guys, we’re shooting rhymes back and forth, and I want to credit both of those guys with giving me the name The Funky One-Liner. See, Dizzy’s name was The Funky Beat-Breaker, D-Mack was The Funky Break-Ripper or something like that (laughs). Now because I was on the punchline thing, they decided to call me the Funky One-Liner (laughs). I mean, they had punchlines too and we were all very influenced by Big Daddy Kane and what he had been doing with the one-liners. But then of course, there was also Lord Finesse and we were all loving what he was doing lyrically. Now, if you go back and look at all our names, you’ll see we all had ‘Funky’ in there and of course Lord Finesse had dropped the “Funky Technician” album. So I started to become known as Omniscence The Funky One-Liner. I also want to say that I was very influenced by Chill Rob G as well in terms of how he was putting certain words together.”

Were you and the guys in Southern Hospitality both looking for separate record deals at this point?

“So, I actually joined their group Southern Hospitality which we shortened down to SoHo. We recorded about five or six songs together which we started to shop around trying to get a record deal. We’d go up to New York to the Seminar, we went to the Jack The Rapper events, shopping our demo and performing. Now, we ended up signing a contract with Kenny Smith out of Queens, New York who played basketball for North Carolina and then Houston. Somehow our demo fell into his hands and he liked what he heard. The name of his label was Baseline To Baseline. So we were getting ready to fly out to Houston and Fanatic called me to say he thought the contract wasn’t the right move. He was like, ‘Yo, the only way you can get out of that contract is to get out of the group.’ So I thought about it long and hard, man. I called Dizzy and talked to him for awhile and told him I was getting out of the group. My thought was that Fanatic had brought me into the game, well Ski had brought me in initially, but Fanatic had guided me along the way since. So long story short, I got out of the group. They went on to record a song called “Shorty” which was actually produced by Mark Sparks as he stayed with them even though he wasn’t part of the contract. But it was a dope record.”

So is this when you and Fanatic started working on what would become 1993’s “The Funky One Liner” EP?

“Yeah, now it’s just me and Fanatic. We didn’t have a deal or nothing, but Fanatic had a connection to a real high-quality studio in Greensboro called Ultimix. This is where he would begin the 6th Boro label. Fanatic had actually formed his own little group called the Funke Leftovers and he came to me and said he wanted me to write some rhymes for him that were aimed at the ladies and then we’d work on my stuff separately at the same time. So the first release on 6th Boro Records was a record by the Funke Leftovers and they had a real Jodeci-type look with the leather vests, no shirts on and everything. Of course, I wanted no part of that (laughs). But simultaneously I was crafting what would become the “Funky One Liner” EP. I’ll never forget I was writing crazy rhymes and Fanatic shot me this one particular beat-tape and that tape had pretty much all but one of the joints that would end-up being on the EP. I scrapped all of the rhymes that I’d been writing previously and decided I was just going to zone into those tracks. Something about those particular beats really caught me and I wrote all of the rhymes in about a week, man. Those beats just had a certain vibe to them and definitely put me into a certain zone. I was pretty much sleeping all day, getting up and going to the studio late at night and I would have all my peoples with me who were living various elements of the street life which had an influence on me at the time. I mean, I never want to portray myself as being the super criminal street killer or anything like that, but I was always able to be around that element and not be out of place just by being myself.”

Were those late-night sessions for creative or practical reasons?

“The late night sessions were because the hook-up Fanatic had meant that we could only use the studio after everyone else had finished and gone home (laughs). Now, Fanatic didn’t smoke or drink, but I told him that I needed to have my element around me while we were recording the EP. So I’d bring my boys in, we’d get lifted and have the forties and everything (laughs). I mean, I wouldn’t get too zooted, but enough for me to be able to really get into my zone. So that’s how the “Funky One Liner” EP was born.”

omni pic 1

Around this early-90s period there were so many up-coming emcees who were trying to get on. Do you ever recall battling or ciphering with anybody who went on to make a name for themselves?

“Definitely. I mean, if we flashback to the time when Ski was doing Original Flavor, he would come down to North Carolina. Now, following that moment at the New Music Seminar when Clark Kent approached us and was looking for Ski, of course he found Ski and subsequently connected him with a young Dame Dash and an upcoming Jay-Z. So these guys would all come down to North Carolina at different times and when we would go up to New York we would connect with them. So I definitely remember me and Jay going at it a couple of times (laughs). I mean, it’s almost hard sometimes to tell people that because not everyone knows where Jay-Z was at in his career back then (laughs).”

Who would you say had the edge between the two of you?

“Me and Jay ciphering together was like the immovable object going up against the unstoppable force (laughs). Jay-Z was the unstoppable force, meaning that, at that time, his rhymes were being said at the speed of light with that fast style he had back then. He was really quick with what he was saying. But then you had me, and I was about the punchlines and the one-liners. So if we had truly battled back then, I don’t know that I  wouldn’t have won that (laughs). But I definitely respect Jay to see where he’s taken it, from where he was at back when I was rhyming with him. I mean, he’s one of the few emcees to have obtained true power in the music business.”

Were there any actual battles you were involved in that standout to you?

“I mean, locally, I had plenty of battles with other emcees (laughs). But as far as the industry is concerned, right after we dropped the “Funky One Liner” EP in 1993, the main battle I had was as part of the New Music Seminar in 1994. At this time Fanatic and Ski were on much better terms so Ski had spoken to Clark Kent about getting me into the emcee competition at the Seminar that year. So I stepped up into that and I was like, ‘Wow!’ But it was a different format than how I’d seen it done previously. I would come out and spit my rhymes, then the next man who I was against in that particular round would come out and do his thing. So it wasn’t like we were onstage together rhyming face-to-face. But anyway, I went first in my round, which perhaps was my downfall, and went out and hit the crowd with a barrage of punchlines. Then the guy who beat me I’m positive was called MC Chill and was from Brooklyn. This wasn’t the same MC Chill who came out on Fever Records though. But he was really animated in what he was doing, so he really had the crowd in an uproar to, so the whole crowd was just shouting, ‘Rematch! Rematch!’ Actually, if you go back to the “Stage Domination” record we were talking about earlier, if you listen to the beginning of it, that’s my battle in the New Music Seminar that I was talking about on there. The crowd were saying they couldn’t pick a winner but the decision had to me made, so I was one and done (laughs). I remember Jay-Z was there that year and people were saying he was going to be in the battle as well. Now, I’d already rhymed with Jay, so if we’d have got put together I already knew how he was going to come. But a lot of people were definitely wary about the fact that Jay was possibly going to battle, so he was definitely feared by other emcees. But for some reason he stayed out of it. Judgemental from Chicago defeated King Sun in the final to take the crown that year”

The label on the “Funky One Liner” EP featured the statement ‘This Material Is Currently Being Shopped’ and a phone number to call if anyone was interested in doing business. Did you actually have people reach out to you off the back of that?

“Yeah, we did. That number on the label was actually Fanatic’s number. But people definitely reached out to him and we ended-up being bidded on heavy! Going back to that New Music Seminar battle, I remember stepping off the stage and the first person who came up to speak to me was Tom Silverman from Tommy Boy who said he wanted to talk about some things. But actually, before we’d gone to the Seminar, we’d enlisted the help of a lady called Enid Shor who had numerous years of experience of getting artists signed to labels with good deals. Now, at this time she was partnered up with DJ Premier’s man, Biggest Gord, and the way it would work is that Enid had the experience of the business and Gord had the access to the streets to find all the raw upcoming talent. So before going to the Seminar we were actually working with them on trying to get a deal. The way that happened was that Gang Starr had come down to North Carolina to do a show, and DJ K-Nyce, the same K-Nyce who had done some recording previously with Supreme Nyborn, he slid their road manager a vinyl copy of the “Funky One Liner” EP. They called back like ‘Yo, this s**t is crazy!’ and before they left town they actually came through the studio. So imagine this, me and Fanatic are in the studio listening to some beats or whatever, and then here comes DJ Premier with the Carhartt suit on and everything telling us how much he likes the record. So he ended up passing it to Gord and Enid who were doing their thing, which is how we ended up working with them. But we ended-up with a few deals on the table. Firstly, we had an offer to sign to East West / Elektra straight up without Vincent Herbert and 3 Boyz From Newark. Then we had another offer from Vincert Herbert, who we ended up signing with, which I’ll get into. Then we had a couple more as well. But none of those offers were as big as what Gord and Enid managed to bring to the table, which was Chris Lighty, who was very interested in the project.”

Ryan Proctor

Check Part Three of this interview here.

Omniscience – “I Gotta Maintain” (6th Boro Records / 1993)

New Joint – Mysonne

Mysonne – “Sound Of NY (Chris Lighty Tribute)” (@Mysonne / 2013)

The former Violator affiliate gives props to both the Rotten Apple and Baby Chris on this Ralph Random-produced track.

Chris Lighty Statement – DJ Red Alert

Hip-Hop pioneer DJ Red Alert recently released a statement via his Facebook page on the tragic death of his longtime friend and original Native Tongues affiliate Chris Lighty:

As I look back at the past few days, I Realize that though a part of my soul is no longer here in my body, I must understand my spirit is still here. You never know what goes on in a person’s mind or what a person is going through. It’s crazy how the visual perception portrays the image of a person but at the same time you don’t know everything that is going on inside of them.

To hell with the media when they keep stating that he carried crates of records for me, they have no clue or idea that there was more to it than that. We’ve done it all together. They weren’t around so what do they know. He was a hot head like the rest of The Violators, but he also had a business sense. I hired him to be the Road Manager for The Jungles Brothers. From there he began to establish himself as a successful business man and began to build a foundation for the Empire that we know today.

Like any other we had disagreements and fall outs, but like my Father always said, “One thing has nothing to do with the other”, so when there was a problem from outside the crew it was dealt with. To my peers of the Entertainment Business and the public, you all knew him as Chris Lighty, but to us (The Main Family) He was always Baby Chris. We (Moms, Mike & I) without hesitation kept the doors open for the 5 Members of The Violators on 113 St. & 7th Ave. 24/7, It was and still is their second home. Whenever I went away to work I knew without a doubt that they would always be there for Mom.

On Behalf Of Chris Arlee, Big Rod, Darryl, Hanz & I We Thank You For Your Condolences & Gratitude.

WE KNOW YOU HERE IN SPIRIT MY BROTHER, WE LOVE YOU

RED ALERT & THE VIOLATORS

“God Grant Me The Serenity To Accept The Things I Cannot Change… Courage To Change The Things I Can, And Wisdom To Know The Difference”