Tag Archives: Flavor Unit

Empires Crumble Album Sampler – Chill Rob G

Chill Rob G – “Empires Crumble” Album Sampler (ChillRobG.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

Golden-era great Chill Rob G runs through a handful of tracks off his impressive new C-Doc-produced album for Chuck D’s SpitSLAM label.

New Joint – The Shady Corps (Pace Won / Lakim Shabazz / Urban Shocker)

The Shady Corps ft. Pace Won, Lakim Shabazz & Urban Shocker – “Lost Souls” (TheShadyCorps.BandCamp.Com / 2015)

New Jersey golden-era favourite Lakim Shabazz makes a welcome appearance on this track from the Pace Won-helmed project “The Shady Corps LP”.

New Joint – Chill Rob G / R.A. The Rugged Man

Chill Rob G ft. R.A. The Rugged Man – “Tell ‘Em” (NobodyBuysRecords.BigCartel.Com / 2015)

Funky, upbeat Bankrupt Europeans-produced banger from the Flavor Unit favourite’s new EP “Chilled Not Frozen”.

Chilled Not Frozen EP Stream – Chill Rob G

chill rob g cover

Flavor Unit legend Chill Rob G has joined forces with Scotland’s Bankrupt Europeans production team for the third volume of Nobody-Buys Records’ “Platinum Era Series”, featuring the New Jersey mic vet delivering authoritative rhymes over head-nodding, sample-based beats.

Making The Beat – 45 King / Devastating Tito / Mikey D

Latest episode of the 45 King’s “Making The Beat” featuring Fearless Four member Devastating Tito and Queens, NY battle legend Mikey D trading rhymes and discussing some Hip-Hop history.

Part One

Part Two

Back In Effect – The 45 King

Legendary Flavor Unit producer The 45 King gives a brief health update following his recent heart attack.

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

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Part One of this interview with turntable pioneer DJ Cheese found the New Jersey native discussing his introduction to Hip-Hop, hooking-up with Word Of Mouth and signing with Profile Records. In this concluding instalment Cheese remembers winning the 1986 DMC World Championships, hanging-out with Biz Markie and paying for his time spent hustling in the streets.

So how did you get involved with 1986’s DMC competition?

“Well, I didn’t really choose to enter the DMC, the DMC chose me. How it happened was through me being in the New Music Seminar battles in New York. I won the New Music Seminar battle in ’84 and then came back in 1985. I really won that battle  as well but I was cheated out of it. Tony Prince from DMC was there at the time and everyone knew I won that battle which is how I ended-up going to England for the DMC. At the time New York was always about New York, so you couldn’t really go there then and get a fair battle. I was lucky enough to get one in ’84 but they weren’t about to let me win two times in a row. Now the winner of that 1985 battle was going to go to the UK to represent the United States in the DMC World Championships, that was announced at the beginning of the battle. Now, even though I didn’t win that NMS title that year (note: NYC’s DJ Easy G Rockwell won) in the books they know who really won that battle because I was told right there that night that I was going to the DMC event. I remember Kurtis Blow coming over to me and telling me it wasn’t right what had happened and that it was clear who’d really won the battle.”

You won the DMC event with a ground-breaking routine made-up of various turntable tricks – were you aware that what you were bringing to the competition was so different to what the other deejays would be doing?

“Nah, not at all. I thought the other deejays there were going to be doing the same thing that I came to do, which was battle. I didn’t think the competition was going to be that laidback. I thought everyone knew why every other person was there, but obviously not. I didn’t go there to mix. I went there to battle.”

At the beginning of the routine there was that slight glitch when you started cutting the Hashim record – what went through your mind at that point when the needle skipped?

“I was always used to things like that happening. I never panicked in a situation like that because that was just Hip-Hop back then. If you were good at what you did then you already knew that the crowd were going to love it. So I didn’t panic at that point. That’s why I got right back to it so fast because I knew where the routine was going to go from there and what I was going to do.”

Dutch deejay Orlando Voorn famously shouted “What is this, a mixing competition or a scratching competition?” after your win was announced and he placed third – what was your response to the reactions you were getting?

“I didn’t really get any negative feedback about my routine other than from the other deejays who were involved in the competition. I remember I could see the fire coming out of Orlando Voorn’s face (laughs). Chad Jackson (note: 1987’s DMC Champion) was definitely cool about it. I got a lot of positive feedback from people saying that they’d never seen anything like that before up close and personal. Back then we did two sets over two days and I remember the attention I got from other deejays being upset after the first day just made me want to go even harder, because they hated what I’d done but the crowd loved it. The first day they weren’t ready with what I came with so I took everybody off guard with the handcuffs, the blindfold, spinning around, using my elbows. But then the next day when we came back there were guys there with pool sticks, bike tyres, one dude even had the kitchen sink! It was crazy (laughs). Suddenly it was like a magic show and everybody had to come up with some new tricks.”

How did it feel to win that DMC event?

“That was definitely another highlight for me to take the title of world champion deejay at the time. I didn’t think I was going to go over there and win that. I mean, it was a world championship, so I figured I was going to go over there and be up against all these deejays from all around the world and have more competition than I really had at that event.”

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So with 1986 being such a huge year for you with the success of “Coast To Coast”, the DMC win and headlining UK Fresh, what was the plan moving forward?

“The plan moving forward was to do the album with Word Of Mouth on Profile, but as I said we started to understand what was happening with our management so we let Duke Bootee know that we didn’t want to be a part of his label anymore. We didn’t want anything else to do with him. When he picked us up from the airport after we came back from Europe he was basically telling us that we didn’t have no other choice. I remember him saying that he had contracts and that even if we were reincarnated we’d come back and he’d still own us. He basically told Word Of Mouth that he didn’t give a f**k about them. He told them, ‘You two can leave today and I wouldn’t give a f**k but this guy here ain’t going nowhere.’ Duke was like, ‘Finding a deejay like Cheese is like finding a needle in a haystack but you rappers are a dime a dozen.’ I think Word Of Mouth were shocked when he said that because he was real aggressive with it. Duke pulled over on the highway and was like, ‘You two can get the f**k out now or we can go back to my house and we can split this money out and we done.’ Like I said, we didn’t really have access to the business side of things and that was then the group really fell apart because I still wanted to do music but the other guys were hesitant on how we were going to do it on our own. I felt there were ways we could’ve gotten it done but they weren’t as motivated about it as I was. So I actually walked away from them afterwards. I mean, looking back, we really should have made a group decision and fought it out more than we did. Even though we were being robbed we should have stuck it out a little longer and used the situation to make other connections in the industry so that we could move on. I mean, I remember hearing bad talk about Duke Bootee from Tom Silverman at Tommy Boy and then I went to the DMC and Tony Prince was in my ear telling me to watch the dude. So I’m hearing the same story from two major industry dudes, which let me know that Duke was already known as a slimeball in the business. But being young at the time, I didn’t know any of that before we got involved with him. I mean, I looked up to Duke because he was the one who put me on and got me to do my first record. But on the other side of the coin, he was a bad businessman and it seemed that the industry knew it already, it was just me who didn’t know that.”

What was your involvement with Tom Silverman?

“Tom Silverman was trying to sign me to Tommy Boy and he told me like, ‘Duke’s not a good dude. He’s going to get you for your money.’ I was working from Tom’s studio at the time when Keith LeBlanc was doing the “Lipservice” record (note: released on Tommy Boy in 1984 under the name Beatmaster). Back then in Hip-Hop if you f**ked with a crew then you were loyal to that one crew. So I made Duke aware of what Tom had said to me and he was like, ‘Well, that’s the last time you’re working there.’ So when Tony Prince told me the same thing that was when I kept it to myself because I wanted to see where it was going to go. So when Word Of Mouth started to see what was going on, that was when I told them what had been said to me and that was when we decided to walk away from the label.”

So was Tom Silverman trying to sign just you to Tommy Boy or Word Of Mouth as well?

“We really didn’t get too much into the conversation but I believe he just wanted to sign me as a deejay because he really didn’t speak on the group. He was impressed with me as he was involved in setting-up the New Music Seminar and had seen what I was capable of doing.”

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I understand that Biz Markie also approached you about being his deejay when he first started putting records out in the mid-80s?

“Yeah. At that time it was me, Biz, Big Daddy Kane and TJ Swan who were all running together at one point. They used to spend the night at my house and go to parties with me. At the time, I was doing two or three parties a week so they used to travel with me. It was towards the end of our run with “Coast To Coast” when Biz first asked me to be his deejay. I still didn’t know where things were going to go with Word Of Mouth, so I was like, ‘I’m down with these dudes already’ and I didn’t want to just walk away from them at that point. Then Big Daddy Kane came along and he was the second one to ask me to be his deejay. Biz and Kane would freestyle at all the parties I was doing in Jersey and the way I was rockin’ with them it was as if we’d practiced routines together, but we never had practiced. They’d just be hanging out with me coming to the parties. Kane would be like, ‘Let me get the mic’ and I already knew he was hot even though people didn’t really know who he was at that time, but he would turn the party out. He’d be rockin’ and I’d drop the beat out on his punchline or throw a cut in there and he’d look back over his shoulder like, ‘How the f**k did you know I was about to drop that punchline?’ So after that he wanted me to be his deejay as well.”

So did you turn Kane down as well because you were still with Word Of Mouth?

“Yeah, right. I was also approached by Queen Latifah and Shakim of the Flavor Unit to be her deejay as well. At that time, I wasn’t even with Word Of Mouth no more, I was in the streets hustling. But I was so caught up in the streets at that time that I turned them down, which became the third biggest disappointment of my career. First I let Biz go by, then Big Daddy Kane, and then here comes Queen Latifah. I let all three of those opportunities go by.”

What was your connection with Biz Markie?

“Biz at the time basically lived in Jersey. You used to see Biz walking around Jersey on a Tuesday (laughs). I mean, Biz was already hot even before his records came out and hit radio because he was known for doing his human beatbox. So he’d already established himself and Kane was running with Biz at that time. As far as Kane, anyone who came from New York to Jersey, the crowd was already looking forward to seeing them rock because they were expecting them to be dope. I mean, that wasn’t always the case, but Kane obviously was a real dope emcee so he definitely left a big impression on people. From time to time people will remind me, ‘You remember that time you brought Kane out at such and such a party? You remember when you brought Biz?’ People still remember that.”

Did anyone ever try and battle Kane at any of those Jersey parties?

“Nah, not at all (laughs). I mean, after Kane got on the mic didn’t nobody else wanna get on it. If he was the first one on, then Kane was the last one on. A person would be a fool to try and go in behind that (laughs).”

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Were you involved with any of the other Flavor Unit members aside from Latifah?

“Nah, but I knew all of them. I knew Mark The 45 King. I mean, when Shakim approached me about working with Latifah it was because Mark was busy with other projects so he couldn’t be her deejay as well. This was around the time that “Wrath Of My Madness” was being played on the radio which was a hot single to me. But part of the reason I turned them down was because I really didn’t want to relive the experience I’d had with Word Of Mouth and the music business.”

So at that point you were burnt out with the business side of the music game?

“Yeah, I was definitely burnt out with the business side of the game and that was when I got caught up in the lifestyle as far as being in the streets was concerned. Basically my addiction in the streets was the lifestyle and the money. I never had a drug habit which is what some people think. I’ve never used drugs, had a drink or smoked a cigarette in my life. So it wasn’t what a lot of people thought it was in terms of them thinking I had a drug addiction because everytime I came home from jail I went right back. No, I had an addiction to money. I mean, when I was touring the UK and making records my addiction was Hip-Hop and it was always about the love of the culture for me and at that point it wasn’t about the money. But that addiction to money came later once I got into the streets.”

How long were you in the streets for?

“I would say from about 1987 through to 2002. I was in and out prison and my mindset during that time was all about getting out to go straight back to the streets. I knew exactly what I was going to do. Today, that’s not my mindset. I’ve prepared myself for it this time. Today my mind is back to the music and I’m back to where I was in ’83, ’84. I know there are people out there who think it’s just a matter of time before I go back to jail but I’m looking to prove them wrong. I’m not upset with anyone for thinking that, because I know I let people down, but now I have to work hard to get that respect back.”

What did you serve time for?

“Distribution of cocaine. There’s nothing else on my jacket other than that.”

Were you still dabbling with Hip-Hop while you were in the streets or did you completely disconnect yourself from the music business?

“I was still doing parties inbetween all that and I did a couple of shows. I did a couple of shows with Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick when I was in the streets. I opened up for 50 Cent while I was in the streets. But for the most part I just walked away from the music even though I would still practice on the turntables at home. I remember I did a show with Kane at The Apollo one time around ’88 / ’89 and he gave me a cold shoulder and treated me like I was a stranger. I don’t know if he was disappointed because I turned him down when he asked me about being his deejay or whether he was disappointed because he knew what I was doing in the streets. I remember we were in the green room and he was standing in the doorway. He was looking at me and I was looking at him, but he didn’t give me a head-nod or nothing. So I approached him like, ‘Remember me?’ and he was just like, ‘Yeah’ and that was it. In my mind I was like, ‘Wow! You used to sleep on my floor and this is how it is now?’ I went and sat back down and I was kinda upset but now when I look back at it I know I disappointed a lot of people with what I was doing. I mean, I’ve talked to Kane since I last came home and we didn’t speak about that particular incident but he was just happy that I’m home and doing what I’m doing.”

How long were you locked-up for before the last time you came home?

“I was released in 2011 and I’d been away for almost nine years.”

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So are you still in touch with Word Of Mouth today?

“Yeah, we did a single called “Life Without Hip-Hop” a little while ago. Like I said, I’m not going going back to the streets again whether this music thing goes my way or it fails. I’m so motivated right now and I keep telling Word Of Mouth that all the old-school crews are still touring and we’re one of the few groups that aren’t out there touring. I understand I was away, but I’m home now so let’s drop the single and let the people know we’re back. But this has been going on for about fifteen months now and I told them flat-out either we’re going to do it or it’s over for good. I’ve got the studio right here at home so we don’t need to pay for studio time or anything like that, we can do it all right here. But it’s just not getting done, so regardless I’m going to keep moving how I’ve been moving. I’ve had quite a few deejay sponsors come along who’re backing me right now because they see what I’m doing and I’m moving right now.”

What’s your opinion on the current state of turntablism?

“I mean, to me everyone is doing the same thing. Everyone’s using their laptops now with Serato. I mean, there’s nothing really wrong with that but it’s just sounds like you’re using one turntable and just doing a lot of scratching. Where are the skills at? Where’s the technical part of being able to do something with that turntable? To me, it always used to be about how you used those turntables and that mixer. It’s moved away from that now and it’s need to get back to what that word turntablism really means. It used to be about the funk. It used to be exciting to watch someone on the turntables and see how nice they were. There are some people out there who’re slowly bringing it back.”

Has it surprised you being on social media and seeing how much people still remember the impact you made the first time around?

“Oh yeah, definitely. Coming home and seeing all the activity on Facebook with people sending me stuff from events that I didn’t even remember doing or pictures that I didn’t even remember taking, to me all that stuff is big.”

How would you sum-up the contributions you made to the golden-era of Hip-Hop as both a deejay and with Word Of Mouth?

“Back then we never even looked it at in terms of what contribution we were making. We were just in the scene doing what we did. Looking back on it now, it’s a decision the people have to make when it comes to how much of a contribution we made. Me personally, I can’t make that decision. That’s something the people have to decide.”

Ryan Proctor

F0llow DJ Cheese on Twitter @KingKutDJCheese.

Footage of DJ Cheese’s 1986 DMC routine.

45 King Mix – The 45 King

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Flavor Unit maestro The 45 King unleashes a mix straight out the lab of all things soulful, funky and dusty – check it here.

Flavor In Ya Ear – Chill Rob G

Former Flavor Unit member Chill Rob G speaks to FifthElementOnline.Com about his personal Hip-Hop history.

Making The Beat – DJ Mark The 45 King / DJ Premier

The 45 King and Premier reminisce on Heavy D, talk about internet politics and discuss their school days in this latest edition of “Making The Beat”.

Part One

Part Two

Making The Beat – The 45 King / Biz Markie

Legendary Flavor Unit producer The 45 King recalls some old-school memories and more with Biz Markie as part of his “Making The Beat” series.


Hip-Hop Hooray! – Naughty By Nature

TheHipHopChronicle.Com interview with Naughty By Nature during the New Jersey trio’s recent trip to the UK.

Been Around The World (Part One) – Naughty By Nature

Footage of Naughty By Nature in South America for the Hip-Hop Al Parque music festival.

Crazy Like A… – Freddie Foxxx

Vintage 1993 interview with the infamous Freddie Foxxx.

Civilisation Vs Technology – Naughty By Nature / DJ Kay Slay

NBN’s Vinnie and Kay Slay go back-and-forth about the pros-and-cons of today’s new DJ technology.

YZ Interview (Originally Posted On HHNLive.Com Nov 21st 2007)


With 2007 having seen new albums from legendary artists such as KRS-One and Public Enemy, and with Internet message boards buzzing about forthcoming material from the likes of Rakim, EPMD and Brand Nubian’s Grand Puba, it’s safe to say that the spirit of Hip-Hop’s fabled late-80s / early-90s golden-age is being kept well and truly alive by a string of lyricists who’re not ready to hang up their microphones just yet. New Jersey native and former Tuff City recording artist Anthony ‘YZ’ Hill can also be added to the list of true-school cats from yesteryear still making noise in the new millennium with quality music that’s simultaneously retro and relevant.

Initially coming to the attention of the wider Hip-Hop community with the 1989 release of his Tony D-produced “In Control Of Things” single, YZ’s lyrical blend of street-savvy swagger and afrocentric politics endeared him to rap fans hooked on the intelligent but raw music of acts such as X-Clan and BDP. An album soon followed in the form of 1990’s well-received “Sons Of The Father”, which found YZ dropping science over a head-nodding selection of sample-heavy beats. A sophomore project, “The Ghetto’s Been Good To Me”, was released in 1993.

Fast-forward almost 15 years and YZ can now be found living in Atlanta with his family, still working hard in his ongoing attempts to uplift Hip-Hop culture and address some of the potentially controversial issues currently surrounding it. Aside from his forthcoming album “Muad’Dib” (which is preceded by the banging single “You Know Me”), the entrepreneurial MC is also involved in a number of other ventures through which he is able to satisfy both his creative tendencies and feelings of social responsibility. With a Hip-Hop-based talk show on the Grapevine Radio network, The Dollar Project (a non-profit foundation to help the homeless), and various television plans in the pipeline, it’s clear that YZ is a man of action who doesn’t believe in wasting either time or an opportunity to build.

HHNLive.com recently kicked it with Mr. Masterplan to talk about, amongst other things, his beginnings in the music game, old-school rap beefs and media motor-mouth Bill O’Reilly.

RP: How and when were you first introduced to Hip-Hop?

YZ: The first time I was introduced to Hip-Hop I was visiting some cousins out in East Orange, New Jersey when I was about 8-years-old. As we were walking down the street both of my cousins were singing this song, ‘To the Hip-Hop….’ and I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ My cousins were like, ‘Man, you’re square. You ain’t heard that?!’ They made me feel like I was from another time zone or something (laughs). Obviously the record they were talking about was the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and I knew right then that when I got back home I had to find out more about that record and what that sound was. At the time I was living in Paterson, New Jersey and I used to run with this crew called the Zodiac Crew, which was like a little gang. So in-between shoplifting here and there and fighting, doing the silly shit kids do, I was banging on stop signs singing and rapping. I actually became very good at it early on, so by the time I was 9-years-old I was already starting to write songs.

RP: So how did you make the transition from rhyming for fun to making records?

YZ: I grew-up in north New Jersey right next to New York, but then my family moved to central New Jersey which is closer to Trenton and even Philadelphia. So everything I’d learned in Paterson I took there. Growing-up as a teenager, battle rapping and break-dancing were really popular and we’d go to local parties and rip up any mics that we could. So what ended up happening was we built a name for ourselves in that area of New Jersey. That was how I met Tony D and we became fast friends and then business partners. We started a company called Two-Tone Productions, the name coming from us both being named Tony and him being white and me being black. I was probably about 16-years-old when we started the company. The demo we recorded got around and it ended up in the hands of a guy named DJ Woody Wood who was a mix deejay with Lady B on Philadelphia’s Power 99. A guy called Jeff Mills got my number from Woody Wood and called saying he wanted to meet me. We met at a Dunkin’ Donuts near my house and after talking to Jeff he asked if I wanted to record a song. So me and my homeboy G-Rock went to Evergreen Studios a week later and made our first record, “I Am What I Am”, which we put out on a small label in Trenton called Rockin’ Hard Records. But seeing that situation let me know that I could do the label thing myself. So there was another guy with a label called Diversity Records. I acquired half of that company and that’s when Tony D and I went back into the studio and recorded “Thinking Of A Masterplan” and “In Control Of Things”. We pressed that up on our own label and the record ended-up becoming pretty popular, with “In Control Of Things” becoming the theme to Marley Marl’s radio show on WBLS. We were really getting a lot of love from the whole tri-state area and on college mix shows and that’s basically how we made a name for ourselves.

(YZ – “Thinking Of A Masterplan” – Tuff City / 1989)

RP: What was the story behind your 80s beefs with both Poor Righteous Teachers and the Flavor Unit camp?

YZ: Because rap is based on battling and a whole bunch of machismo bullshit, you’re always going to have some sort of beef between somebody. I was always very forthright in speaking my opinion, which caused me some problems early on. Now, Poor Righteous Teachers signed to my record company when they first came out. I met Wise Intelligent at this little cookout and Diversity Records, the company I co-owned, signed Poor Righteous Teachers. Tony D took to being a nuisance at that point, and don’t get me wrong, Tony and I are friends and he might tell things a little differently, but everything I’m saying to you now I’d say to him. But Tony would get in Wise’s ear and create the friction that became the beef between PRT and me. He would take songs that I’d recorded and play them to Poor Righteous Teachers, which is why you might’ve noticed our styles then were so similar on certain songs. Now with Flavor Unit, that was a whole difference case. Tony was starting to get frustrated about people using beats that were similar to his. He was working on this project called “Music Makes You Move” which was supposed to be an instrumental break-beat album. Tony asked me if I would be on this joint basically aimed at the people who had used his beats, which included Flavor Unit, my Tuff City label mate Lakim Shabazz, Gang Starr, Big Daddy Kane and a few others. That song was never supposed to be just outright dissing or being disrespectful, it was just supposed to highlight what had happened with some of Tony’s beats. But Tony added some profanity and comments towards other artists. Obviously with Tony being the beat maker and YZ as the voice, it was me who was going to catch all the heat off of that.

RP: So as an artist who has experienced first-hand how a spontaneous studio idea can escalate into a heated situation with another artist, would you advise today’s upcoming rappers to stay away from beef?

YZ: I would because nowadays it’s a bit different. Don’t get me wrong, guns and violence were around back then as well, but we weren’t so quick to shoot each other. Nowadays, it seems like the youth don’t really have any true respect for life and when beefs happen in Hip-Hop now you really don’t know what’s going to happen. Words are probably the most powerful thing on this Earth because they spread so quickly. I mean, you could say something today and ten years from now those words might still be touching people. So when you have kids losing their lives over words, I just think artists should back away from being blatantly disrespectful towards each other because it seems to be a very dangerous time right now.

(YZ – “Return Of The Holy One” – Livin’ Large / 1992)

RP: After a relatively successful run as an artist things seemed to go quiet for YZ in the mid-90s aside from the odd guest appearance. Did you make a conscious decision to step away from the game at that point?

YZ: In 1993 I moved to New York and I had a company called 720 Sound. At that time I was very deeply embedded in the game and had acts like UTD with Mos Def, 8-Off The Assassin, and Legion Of Dume with Schott Free who went on to A&R at Loud Records. We had offices in the same building as The Source magazine. I was just 20-years-old. What ended-up happening was, the people I had signed to me who I worked very hard for every day, they really couldn’t see the clear picture. I felt like it almost became a baby-sitting job. At the time (legendary New York street ball player and hustler) Pee Wee Kirkland and I were business partners, so I told Pee Wee that I was going to move to Atlanta, still run the business from there and let him deal with things in New York. When I moved to Atlanta everything was fine in the very beginning, but Pee Wee really couldn’t handle the day-to-day ins-and-outs of the music game and things just kinda fell to the wayside. I moved to Atlanta because I really just wanted to take a small step away from the hustle and bustle of New York. I didn’t necessarily want to step away from the game, but I did want to get away from the nonsensical, lackadaisical attitude of some of the artists I’d been dealing with. Not to say all of the artists were like that, but some of them were. So I never really stepped away from the game completely during that period, as I always took an interest in what was happening in Hip-Hop and put out little projects here and there.

RP: You released the album “The Legend Of Floyd Jones” in 2002 but have gone on record saying you felt the project was misunderstood. What did you mean by that?

YZ: That album was actually supposed to be an ode to Pee Wee Kirkland. What I did was I took a fictitious name and things that I’d been through and then put it together within the shell of Pee Wee’s life. I got great reviews for that album, but in all of the reviews I read nobody actually knew it was YZ’s voice they were hearing. To be honest, aside from this new album I’m about to drop, I think “The Legend Of Floyd Jones” is the most conceptual album I’ve made. But sometimes people don’t want to see different sides of an artist, so when people started finding out it was me behind the record they had a problem because some of the subject matter didn’t fit with what they expected to hear from YZ. Now I don’t know any man who isn’t multi-faceted and rappers have always had to bear the brunt of “keeping it real”, but when we do keep it real we can only keep it as real as the people want to hear. But personally, I love that “Floyd Jones” album.

RP: What can listeners expect from your new album, “Muad’Dib”?

YZ: The title “Muad’Dib” comes from a character in Frank Herbert’s science-fiction book “Dune” who was the liberator of the sand people. With what I see going on in Hip-Hop today, I think the music needs to be liberated and the audience needs artists who can give them good Hip-Hop and balance things out with something of substance. The game really doesn’t have enough balance right now, and to me balance is the key to life. I began recording the new album just over a year ago and finished about four months ago. When I started hearing projects like the recent albums from Common and Kanye West, it got me thinking that maybe my album is right on time because people obviously do want to hear something different right now. I’m very blatant about addressing certain issues on the new album so it’ll be interesting to see how people react to it.

RP: There seems to have been a lot of renewed activity amongst some of rap’s golden-era figures in recent times. How much of that do you think is down to Internet sites like MySpace showing artists that there is still an audience out there for their music?

YZ: I think the Internet on a whole is very important to music nowadays in general because it gives people the chance to share their music on a worldwide level rather than just on a neighbourhood level. When I first came into the game you would just rock your neighbourhood and somehow if you rocked your neighbourhood enough your name would start to spread and that was how you were able to build a career. Nowadays artists have the world at their fingertips and can share what they want with who they want online. Now as far as golden-era artists are concerned, I don’t think sites like MySpace are solely responsible for any current success a particular artist might be having, although they do play a part. But honestly, I think what keeps some our legendary artists around is the same thing that keeps artists like Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley around. They made music of substance and that will always stand the test of time and be remembered. Nowadays, so much of what you hear in the rap scene is redundant. You have to wonder which artists will be remembered in years to come and whether the fans today would still want to buy a new album from those guys in the same way that people like KRS-One and Public Enemy are still able to sell new projects 20 years after they first came out. It’s sad because labels now don’t want to really invest any time or money into developing an artist. It’s all about the quick fix and labels are just giving us fast-food music and forgetting that we need some fruit and vegetables as well.

RP: Moving away from music for a moment, what do you think Obama’s chances are of becoming the next US president?

YZ: To be honest with you, after seeing the last two elections here in America, I don’t really believe in the electoral process anymore. I honestly think that it’s a big farce and I don’t want to get too far off your question, but I think there’s an agenda being met right now and I think that, should Obama win, it’s because it would be part of the bigger agenda that the powers-that-be are working towards. The reason I say that is because, what better time to put a black president in power than when things are really terrible and then they’ll have to bear the brunt of that and be used as a scapegoat. Plus, I don’t think corporate white America is really ready for a black president yet. However, I do think the people are ready to see some changes. I think it’s very important that we see a leader who can inspire the next generation to be conscious about the movements they make, conscious about the need to look after the planet they’re living on, conscious about the political ramifications of people’s actions. Someone needs to really be able to reach out to the youth and make them think about what their future is going to be like and how they can play a role in shaping it.

RP: Hip-Hop itself seems to be something of a political hot potato at the moment following the Don Imus incident earlier this year and the seemingly endless targeting of rap by media commentators such as Fox’s Bill O’Reilly. How much of a negative impact do you think that sort of reporting has on the white mainstream’s view of black America?

YZ: I think the people that have a problem with the black community are always going to have a problem with the black community. But to be honest, it’s not the youth that the Bill O’ Reillys of the world are looking to engage, it’s their parents and grandparents who’re probably already stuck in their views of Hip-Hop and the black population anyway. So if Bill O’Reilly thinks the solution to some of the problems he addresses lies in alienating the same youth he’s actually talking about then he’s got it all wrong.

RP: What amazes me about figures such as Bill O’Reilly is how hesitant they are to enter into any genuine dialogue about some of the issues they’re raising concerning Hip-Hop – it’s either their way or no way. Would you agree with that?

YZ: The bottom line, I think, is that someone like Bill O’Reilly is so fixated on Hip-Hop because he knows that just the very word is going to help get him ratings. I don’t necessarily know if he feels one way or the other about Hip-Hop, but if he can get ratings off of talking about it that’s what will keep him paid and in a job. I mean, commentators like Bill O’Reilly thrive off of controversy just as much as some of the artists they’re criticizing do. I don’t think that what Bill O’Reilly does is productive in regards to the youth because he’s not constructive or open-minded in the way he approaches the subject of Hip-Hop and his supposed concerns about it.

RP: Speaking of media commentators, you currently host a popular Hip-Hop show on Grapevine Talk Radio. How did you become involved in that?

YZ: My association with Grapevine started out with me being asked onto a talk radio show because they wanted to address Hip-Hop. After I’d been interviewed on the show I think the people at the network were really taken aback by the fact that they’d heard all this negative feedback about Hip-Hop but here was someone who could talk about it from an intelligent standpoint and perhaps show people they might be wrong about some of their opinions on the music and its culture. So they asked me if I’d be interested in starting my own radio show. I had to think about it for a minute because I wanted to make sure that if I did it the concept behind it made sense. So I came up with The Afterthought Radio Show to see if we could get people interested in some of the dialogue currently surrounding Hip-Hop and in just over four weeks we had 300,000 people listening to us. What that told me is that there are a lot of people out there worldwide who want to see some changes happen in Hip-Hop. So with The Afterthought I wanted to establish some sort of link so that the artists of the golden-era would be able to share some of their knowledge of that particular period in Hip-Hop’s history that people might’ve missed, but also debate some of today’s current issues surrounding the music and also supporting some of those artists of today who’re making music of substance.

RP: As someone who’s now involved in music, radio and television, where are you looking to take your career next?

YZ: Even if it comes to the point where I’m no longer recording music as an artist, I will always be involved in Hip-Hop on some level because I have a genuine love for the music and the culture. I’m about to be like the Oprah Winfrey of Hip-Hop and really take it there because someone really needs to stand-up, speak out and do what’s right for this music.

Ryan Proctor

(D-Nice Presents: True Hip-Hop Stories / 2007 YZ Interview)