O.C. ft. Majestic Gage & David Bars – “In The Paint” (@DITCEnt / 2017)
The Diggin’ In The Crates legend takes it to the hoop in the visuals for this mellow Motif Alumni-produced cut off his “Same Moon, Same Sun” album.
O.C. ft. Majestic Gage & David Bars – “In The Paint” (@DITCEnt / 2017)
The Diggin’ In The Crates legend takes it to the hoop in the visuals for this mellow Motif Alumni-produced cut off his “Same Moon, Same Sun” album.
Show & AG, Majestic Gage & A-Bless – “Toe To Toe” (@DITCEnt / 2016)
Showbiz-produced Rotten Apple rawness from the Diggin’ In The Crates camp.
Milano Constantine, Majestic Gage & D-Flow – “Cinematic” (@DITCEnt / 2016)
The three Diggin’ In The Crates affiliates showcase their undeniable lyrical skills over smooth E-Blaze production.
Majestic Gage ft. Tashane – “Caffeine” (@MajesticGage / 2016)
Showbiz-produced slice of uncompromising hardcore Hip-Hop from Bronx emcee Gage featuring late D.I.T.C. member Tashane.
The Bronx-bred Diggin’ In The Crates-affiliate delivers cautionary tales for the next generation over soulfully haunting production.
Showbiz & A.G. ft. A-Bless, Tashane & Majestic Gage – “South Bronx S**t – Preem Mix” (@DITCEnt / 2014)
Originally appearing on the BX duo’s 2012 release “Mugshot Music: Preloaded”, this extended version finds Andre The Giant being joined by members of D.I.T.C.’s younger generation (including the tragically deceased Tashane) to rep for the birthplace of Hip-Hop.
Majestic Gage – “Revolutionary” (@MajesticGage / 2014)
The Diggin’ In The Crates affiliate delivers though-provoking rhymes on this new track produced by Canada’s Illatracks.
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)
Majestic Gage – “Fair Warning” (@MajesticGage / 2014)
Ty Ahart-produced track from the South Bronx-bred emcee and Diggin’ In The Crates affiliate.
Staten Island’s S.I.T.H. teams-up with Diggin’ In The Crates’ Gage on this razorSHARPE-produced track.
Atmospheric Ty Ahart-produced track from the talented Bronx-based D.I.T.C. lyricist.
D Flow ft. Jeff Nortey & Majestic Gage – “Why Complain” (@DFlowDITC / 2013)
Smoothed-out Showbiz-produced track from the D.I.T.C. emcee’s new mixtape “Paraphernalia”.
Tashane, A. Bless, Majestic Gage & A.G. – “Come N Get Me” (D.I.T.C. Entertainment / 2013)
Visuals for this recently-leaked Showbiz-produced track from the forthcoming Diggin’ In The Crates compilation project.
Tashane, A.Bless, Majestic Gage & A.G. – “Come And Get Me” (D.I.T.C. Ent. / 2013)
Showbiz-produced track from the forthcoming D.I.T.C. compilation project – R.I.P. Tashane.
Hailing from the project buildings of the South Bronx, NYC’s D-Flow first came to the attention of most in the mid-90s, introduced as a new recruit to the legendary Rotten Apple crew Diggin’ In The Crates via two stellar appearances on Showbiz & A.G.’s well-received “Goodfellas” album.
Having combined forces with long-time friend Party Arty to form the Ghetto Dwellas, Flow’s intricate verses and battle-hardened rhymes were heard on numerous D.I.T.C.-related releases throughout the late-90s / early-t0-mid 2000s, including classic tracks such as “Themes, Schemes & Dreams” alongside O.C. and “Who’s The Dirtiest” off Show & A.G.’s “Full Scale LP”.
Always clearly able to hold his own when sharing the mic with some of the greatest emcees to have emerged from the five boroughs, D-Flow’s standing in the game hasn’t always mirrored the level of his talent, with circumstances and life situations sometimes disrupting the BX representative’s career plans, not least the unexpected passing of Party Arty in 2008.
With his new “Paraphernalia” mixtape due to drop imminently, Flow took some time out to discuss his early days as a member of D.I.T.C., working with Party Arty and future plans.
The Bronx is back!
What was your first introduction to Hip-Hop?
“I was in middle-school. One day I was on a school trip and a partner of mine he had the headphones. You remember when you’d get on the bus to go on a school trip and everyone would be trying to get into something, whether you got a book to read or your music to listen to? Well, I didn’t have anything and this partner of mine next to me had a Walkman. He gave me his headphones and what I was listening to was “The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick”. I was so amazed by what I was hearing with the story-telling and everything. Then from that point, it was on. I was trying to figure out how to do it, how I could hear more of it and where I could get it. So that was the very first taste I got of Hip-Hop when I was about fourteen-years-0ld.”
Growing-up in the South Bronx did you already have any awareness of what was going on in the BX in terms of Hip-Hop?
“I mean, around that time I wasn’t really of an age where I was allowed to be out in the streets of the South Bronx alone. But eventually I would get out and hang-out a little past my curfew time (laughs). I’d sneak in the back of places and get a taste of the jams that were going on in my projects. I’m from Mott Haven projects which is in the heart of the South Bronx. You can’t mention the South Bronx without mentioning those projects. Now, in Mott Haven they had a community centre and in the back of the community centre is this dome where they’ve got a stage with an awning on top and dudes used to get on stage and perform. So that was another early taste of Hip-Hop that I got when I used to sneak into the back of the jams and see what was going on with dudes from the neighbourhood spinning on the turntables trying to come up.”
Did you see anyone performing who went on to do bigger things outside of the local jams?
“Absolutely. I’m right next door to another project called Patterson projects, which is where A.G. is from. Now, when I used to go over to those projects I used to see Percee P tearing the mic down at the jams. This was way before I started doing what I do. But I used to watch cats like him and Lord Finesse and A.G. doing their thing at the time. This would have been around the late-80s. Like I said, I was kinda young so I was kind of unaware of what was going on with them at the time. I knew Finesse was a battle rapper and that he’d battled Percee P and would go to different schools and just tear dudes down. If I’m not mistaken, that’s actually how A.G. and Lord Finesse met through battling each other. But I was young at the time so those were the stories that I’d hear the older dudes talking about. I mean, I didn’t even know A.G. at this time.”
At what point did you actually start rhyming?
“Well, after the jams and stuff like that I started running into dudes on the street, like seeing A.G. in the neighbourhood and other cats from other projects that were close by. Like, over in Mitchell projects there was this group called Hellbound and I remember this guy called O-Smooth who was another rapper from the neighbourhood and also a guy called D-Terror who was from another building in my projects who used to be out there rhyming. I used to see those cats doing what they did and I was just in awe. I was real interested in what they were doing. Rhyming was something that I just gravitated to and it kinda came to me easy when I tried to put it down. So that’s basically how I started, just seeing dudes do what they do and it was something that I loved to hear and something that I loved to watch. So I just gravitated to it and started trying to put my pen game down, listening to different people, emulating what they did, and that’s how I learnt to rap. Then when I went back to show my friends what I was doing they were in awe and liked what I was doing, so from there it was on.”
At what point did you hook-up with Party Arty?
“Me and Arty grew-up in the same projects. He lived in the building right next to my building and we were actually in the first grade together. I mean, I knew Arty for longer than I knew most of my family members and it was the same for him. He was really a brother-from-another-mother. I grew-up at his house and he grew-up at my house. So we were together all the time before we even started rapping. Before the music it was basketball. We did everything together. I actually started rapping before Arty did. I didn’t introduce it to him because he had an older brother who used to spin on the turntables and write his little raps down, so Arty was kinda in a musical family already. But the idea of us doing something together was something that I brought to him as he was my best friend, like ‘Yo, I think we should do this.'”
So that was when the Ghetto Dwellas came into existence…
“Yeah. I mean we had a couple of other group names which I can’t really remember now, but Ghetto Dwellas was something that we stuck with from the early-90s. That was us.”
Did Party always have that gruff rhyme style that he became known for on record?
“Not at all. When we first started rhyming, Arty rhymed just like everyone else. He didn’t really develop his voice until he started maturing. Back in those days we used to drink the forty ounces, go in the studio and just bug out. I remember there was this one day when Arty was just extra hype when he was rhyming and we were like, ‘That sounds crazy! You’ve gotta rhyme like that from now on.’ So that whole style he had was something that he transitioned into after we started doing music.”
I always imagined him being mad tired after a studio session with the amount of effort it sounded like he was putting into his delivery…
“He was never, never tired (laughs). It was something that just came natural to him. He always made it seem effortless the way he delivered his rhymes.”
How and when did you officially become part of D.I.T.C.?
“Well, becoming part of D.I.T.C. was definitely something that me and Arty had to work for. A.G. was a little older than us and he was a friend of Arty’s older brother and was a part of that generation. We were like the little guys at the time. We watched A.G. do what he was doing and put out all that early stuff with Showbiz like “Giant In The Mental” and “Soul Clap”. I witnessed that in my neighbourhood, just seeing all the older cats being excited about it and playing the tape. I remember I asked this guy where he got the tape from and how much he paid for it. He told me it cost him fifty dollars and I believed him! That’s how incredible it was for me at the time. I believed a cassette tape would cost fifty dollars! So A.G. was part of that older generation and we were introduced to him by some of those older dudes who were telling him that he should check us out. Eventually we got with him, he heard us and loved what we were doing and immediately took us under his wing and started introducing us to other cats in different neighbourhoods that we might not have been aware of at the time. So we would go around and we would battle different cats just getting our name up and getting our buzz up, but still we weren’t allowed to go into the recording studio. We were still young dudes who were wet behind the ears and we really had to work for it.”
Were there any particular battles from back then that still stand-out to you?
“Absolutely, absolutely. There was a legendary battle we had on Big L’s plot up in Harlem on 139th. It was actually something that L set up for us because even though we weren’t from his neighbourhood we were still all family in D.I.T.C. and that’s how we all looked at each other. So Big L would be in his neighbourhood and have young cats coming up to him telling him, ‘Yo, this is what we’re doing’ and L would be like, ‘I’ve got some young dudes that’s doing it the way that it’s supposed to be done’ and he would bring us through to battle cats. I remember this one particular battle you had the Lox out there and Mase as well. There was about forty people out on the block with dudes standing on cars and everything. Dudes were capturing the footage on cameras. You might actually see some of that battle in the Big L documentary DVD that’s coming out either at the end of this year or the beginning of next year…”
So was it just you and Party Arty going up against people?
“We were out there going up against the whole of Harlem (laughs). We were out there for like seven hours and cats were just coming from different sides of the town to do what they do. But me and my man stood there all night with Deshawn as well and we just held it down from day to night. By the time it was over it was night time and dudes were gone already (laughs). It was a real memorable time. I was just happy to be involved and see that dudes were feeling what I was doing. So at that point I basically knew everybody in D.I.T.C. because, like I said, Big L would come through and get us anytime he felt like some kids needed to be put in their place. We were kinda in the mix of everything that was going on at the time. But it did take time for us to meet everybody in the crew. I mean, when we first started going to the studio you’d probably just have Big L in there one night and then maybe the next time you’d have O.C. and Lord Finesse. Then maybe the next time Buckwild would be in there with Showbiz. So gradually we became part of the family and got up with everybody.”
What influence did that have on you as a young upcoming emcee to be around other artists who were already considered giants in the rap game?
“It had a great influence. I mean, to this day, all the lessons that I learnt back then from being around those dudes I still apply to what I do. The way I do my music, the type of music that I do. That’s my family right there and their influence just rubs right off. I mean, I got to be around so many talented artists from being with the crew up in D&D Studios and Chung King. I got to experience so much at such a young age that I felt like a vet at the age of twenty-one. It really opened my eyes as well to all the hard work that went into making the records, like with the mixing process, the mastering process, dealing with the reels and all of that. Back then we were carrying around forty pound tape reels from the car up three flights of stairs to the studio and all of that. So all of those details really helped shape and mold me, like seeing how different dudes all had their own different way of working and things like that. Like, O.C. might record his verse differently to A.G. who might record his verse differently to Big L. I got to see so many dudes working through their recording process. I remember one time I got to see Das EFX record and watch how they laid their verses down. I mean, I always thought they went into the booth at separate times to record their individual parts, but they were in the booth together using the same mic and laying their verses on the same tape track. They were in there going back and forth like they were performing a show (laughs).”
Your first appearance on wax was on Show & A.G.’s 1995 album “Goodfellas” with you featuring on both “Got The Flava” with Method Man and “Add On” with Lord Finesse…
“When I did that first song with A.G. and Lord Finesse it was something I had to work towards. Party Arty was on the album before me, but getting that spot on there was definitely something I had to work towards in terms of going through a process and writing a couple of verses. It was a privilege. I knew there was an album being done and I knew I had to get on that album. So I had to put that work in. Like I said, Arty had already secured his spot on the project before me so I had to go extra hard and really prove to A.G. that I was worthy of being on there. Once I got on there it was a beautiful thing.”
“Got The Flava” is one of my favourite posse cuts of the 90s – what do you remember about that studio session?
“Yeah, that was definitely a memorable studio session and I’ll tell you why. Right before that studio session Party Arty had been shot three times and he was still recovering when we did that song. Plus, that session was the day we met Method Man. We were all in Chung King and Method Man came through and we were all introduced and he jumped on the song. At the time, Method Man was Arty’s favourite artist so that was a real good day. I’ll never forget that day.”
Was Method Man actually supposed to be on that track originally?
“He was actually on tour at the time and had left the tour to come back to New York to take care of something. I think he was just coming to the studio to drop something off or maybe pick something up or whatever. We happened to meet in the lobby and I introduced myself, told Meth who I was and who I was there working with and it was all love from there. Method Man came into the session and we just vibed out for about three hours. That’s exactly how it happened.”
I remember that Method Man appearance really stood-out because that was the first time that a major emcee unaffiliated with the D.I.T.C. camp had featured on a Showbiz & A.G. track…
“Right, right. Well back then, D.I.T.C. felt they really didn’t need any extra emcees guesting on their projects. As a crew they really had it all together themselves. I actually think putting Method Man on “Got The Flava” was something that A.G. wanted to do for me and Arty because like I said, Method Man was Arty’s favourite artist. So I think A.G. asking Meth to get on that track was something that he did for us. If that had just been a track that A.G. was on I don’t think that would have been his first thought back then to ask someone outside the crew to get on it. But being as we were all on the song together, that was perfect.”
Around that time how much work were you actually doing in the studio with Arty on Ghetto Dwellas material?
“We were consistently working. We weren’t necessarily working on any particular project but we were always working on new material so that we were always ready for whatever opportunities might have presented themselves at the time. We were in it for the ride and we loved to make music. It was fun to us. It was incredible to us to be a part of everything that was going on around us. We worked hard and a lot of those songs that we were recording at that time really blended in with what the rest of the crew were doing. “Make It Official” was one of the first tracks we recorded when we first got in the studio which was produced by Wali World. From listening to that, you could really hear the potential.”
“Feel The Beat” was another early track that’s definitely stood the test of time…
“Yep, yep. I remember all of those songs. Man, you’re really bringing back some memories…”
Considering the reputation D.I.T.C. had built by the mid-90s for delivering classic Hip-Hop, did you feel any pressure knowing that fans would have high expectations for any new artist coming out of the crew?
“Man, I wasn’t thinking about no pressure or anything like that. I just wanted to rhyme. I didn’t care who I was rhyming in front of or where I was rhyming at. I just loved to do it. Whenever it was time to get it in I was always prepared and ready. Like, if you watch that legendary Big L interview with 88HipHop.Com, that right there was totally unexpected. I was just up there for the ride and then it was like, ‘You want me to rhyme? Okay, cool…’ I was always focused and ready to step up. If you actually watch that clip closely you can even see the nerves in my face moving around (laughs)…
As the Ghetto Dwellas you and Arty definitely built a nice cult fanbase for yourselves – were you surprised by how quickly people gravitated towards you as artists in your own right?
“To be honest, I didn’t really get the full effect of that at the time. We weren’t really doing any touring as the Ghetto Dwellas and I wasn’t really getting around too much. The music was just out there and people were listening. The internet wasn’t really that big at the time, so I couldn’t really see the size of the response we were getting out there. So I would get the information through A.G. and other members of D.I.T.C. who would tell me how well things were going with our music when they’d come back off tour and things like that. So I didn’t really get to experience that love until later on. I was just happy to have music out and to be doing what I was doing at that time. I mean, if I’d have got the full effect of what was going on in terms of how people were responding to our music it might have changed who I was at the time and, who knows, I might have been someone different today. But back then, I was doing music and living real life and going through real life s**t. I have two sons and my youngest son who’s twelve-years-old now is handicapped, so I had to deal with that. That was something that I had to be there for. So at some points, my total focus wasn’t music. It was an in and out thing. So what I’m saying is, if I’d have known back then exactly how people were gravitating towards what we were doing and how big our following was, maybe I would have gone a little harder and I’d have been in a different situation today. I mean, it was kinda hard for me back then to see how things were growing from where I was at. I was dealing with real life at the time and it was kinda hard for me.”
Was there ever a full-length Ghetto Dwellas album project in the pipeline?
“There wasn’t really a plan for a full-length album or anything like that because I was dealing with what I was dealing with at the time. Which is partly why you might have started to hear me and Arty appearing separately on certain joints and different projects. That’s just how it was at the time and we weren’t really concentrating on recording a Ghetto Dwellas album. Arty had more time for the music at that point than I did. My eldest son is nineteen-years-old now. I had my first son in 1994 and me and my wife were together for that whole time. Arty had a kid as well but he kinda had a break because his daughter lived with her mother so he was able to be in a lot of places and get a lot of stuff done. But I was dealing with other things. So the Ghetto Dwellas album was never really the focus for all of us. We just wanted to do music and I did it whenever I could. I tried to get on as many projects as I could and was always around but my focus wasn’t always on music even though it was something that was always in my heart.”
Was it difficult for you to step back considering the momentum you’d been building?
“Don’t get me wrong, whenever I was away from what was going on with the crew, I was still doing music. I always made sure my sword stayed sharp in-case I ever came across a battle or something. I mean, the only hardship that came out of that was seeing what maybe I could have been doing after the fact. But that’s normal for everybody. Whenever you step away from something and you see what you’re missing, you always feel some kinda way. But that’s also what kept me loving music. I never want to stop doing music. But if there’s something that I need to deal with at the time for me to make sure that I can continue to feed myself and my family, then I’m going to do that. I mean, if I don’t take care of myself then I can’t do music. But D.I.T.C is my family, so there was never hard feelings from anyone about me doing what I had to do back then. It was always love and I could always walk back through the door when I was able to make music. I could always call my brothers about anything because aside from the music D.I.T.C. is about friendship. I mean, I look on these dudes like they’re my family. That’s Uncle Finesse right there and my big brothers Showbiz and A.G. They know my family and I know their families. They were always there for me.”
When Party Arty passed away unexpectedly in 2008 did you consider stepping away from music or was it a case of you feeling that you had to continue to honour his memory?
“Absolutely. That’s exactly how I felt. At first I had to step back and look at the situation and really deal with what had happened. Arty was like my ear, y’know. If Arty told me something was dope, then it was dope. Couldn’t anyone else tell me any different. If Arty told me something was dope, then I didn’t care what the rest of the world was saying. I mean, I really lost my best friend. But I had to recover from that and I knew the music was something that I needed to continue to do for him, it was something that I needed to do for me, it was something that I needed to do for us because we both loved to make music. I know he’s looking down on me right now happy that I’m still doing what I’m doing. I’m still doing what we started and it’s never gonna stop. Music is a part of my life and that’s never going to end. Hip-Hop is always going to be in my life.”
Bringing things up-to-date, what’s the status of the Barbury’N project you were working on with Milano and Majestic Gage?
“When you’re doing the group thing it’s kinda hard because it never seems to work exactly how you want it to work. At this point, we all thought it would be better to each do music on our own time because it wasn’t working trying to get everyone together with different schedules that just weren’t matching up. So we felt that we would all be more effective musically just working on our own music and doing what we do for ourselves. Milano felt the same way and Gage is still working with Showbiz on his new project along with A. Bless and a new cat Tashane. So Gage is doing that right there, I’m focusing on my solo projects and Milano has his new mixtape coming as well. We wanted to do the group thing first and then branch off to do our solo stuff but, like I said, trying to get three schedules to match is kinda hard so we had to flip it around.”
So what can people expect from the “Paraphernalia” mixtape you’re about to drop?
“It’s eighty percent original music. I’ve got Showbiz producing on there along with Drawzilla and E. Blaze. There’s only three freestyle tracks on there. Out of the thirteen tracks on the mixtape, ten of them are original. I’m basically giving away an album with this project, you could say. Then after this I’ve got my official album project dropping at the top of next year.”
That album is going to be produced entirely by Ray West, right?
“Yeah, he’s doing all of the production on there. Ray is so unique with what he does. You can tell that there’s a lot of heart that goes into the music he makes. He’s not really influenced by what other people are doing and he’s genuinely doing something unique. It’s Hip-Hop and you can’t ask for no more than that when you’re working on a project. It’s just good music. I love Ray West, man. But the album itself is going to feature me talking about different things that people can relate to. I’m a narrator and I want people to really feel me in their soul and be like, ‘Damn, I know what this dude is going through.’ That’s what you’re going to get on the album, straight real s**t about real situations that hopefully might help cats on the other side of the world get through some s**t that they need to get through. I want to be able to relate to people and I want people to be able to relate to me.”
As a Bronx emcee making music today do you feel a responsibility to both preserve the history and further the legacy of the birthplace of Hip-Hop?
“I think we’re holding on to the culture and the authenticity of Hip-Hop. We’ve got a greater respect for it than a lot of dudes do. When you hear an emcee coming from the Bronx, there’s normally a lyrical thing going on. I mean, I wouldn’t feel right switching sides at this point (laughs). It’s just not in my blood to do that. I mean, music is worldwide now and the game has changed so much that we’ll probably never get back to the music being as authentic as it used to be, but that doesn’t mean that I have to let it go. There’s always going to be someone out there who’s looking for some real Hip-Hop s**t and who wants to know about what’s happening out in these streets instead of what’s happening in the clubs. That’s what I’m interested in knowing about. I want to know what’s happening in these streets right now. I want to know what’s happening in that project building over there on the tenth floor in that corner apartment. What’s happening in there? People are still going through the same struggles. Those things don’t change. But not everyone has to like what I do. I just want to do this and take care of my family off of it. I don’t have to be popular or have millions of dollars. I just want to be comfortable, be happy and live long. If I can do that through music and reach the people that I need to reach then I’m happy with that.”
Follow D-Flow on Twitter – @DFlowDITC – and lookout for the mixtape “Paraphernalia” dropping June 7th on DatPiff.Com.
Show & A.G. ft. D-Flow, Wali World, Party Arty & Method Man – “Got The Flava” (Payday Records / 1995)
1998 88HipHop.Com freestyle featuring D-Flow, Party Arty, A.G. and Big L.
Barbury’N (D-Flow, Milano Constantine & Majestic Gage) – “Living At Still” (Mugshot Music / 2011)
Andre The Giant leads a rhyme session with D.I.T.C. affiliates Majestic Gage, A-Bless and Tashane featuring DJ Premier on the turntables.
Up & Coming TV’s DJ 250 speaks with NYC’s Majestic Gage about how he became affiliated with D.I.T.C. and working with D-Flow and Milano as a member of Barbury’N.
Dialect & Despair ft. Majestic Gage & D Flow – “S.A.B.X.” (UKNOWHO Records / 2012)
The Australian duo team-up with D.I.T.C. / Barbury’N lyricists Gage and D-Flow for this head-nodder from the recently released album “Self Evident”.
The D.I.T.C.-affiliated emcee just posted this vintage freestyle up on his Soundcloud page which is lifted from the 2005 mixtape “Spanish Harlem” – definitely worth a listen while you’re waiting for that new ish.
Milano recently sent me over a couple of new joints from the Barbury’N project with D-Flow and Majestic Gage and they’re definitely reppin’ that ill Rotten Apple rap with pride and true skills.
Footage of the Barbury’N crew (Milano, Majestic Gage and D-Flow) dropping some rhymes on NYC’s Halftime Show – everyone handles their business in this clip but Gage’s second verse almost sets the mic on fire.