Poison Pen’s something of a utility man in this rap game, capable of playing any position well while representing Bed Stuy to the fullest. Whether he’s ripping stages with the likes of Immortal Technique and Diabolic, hosting or judging any battle that means something, or just straight-up recording, Pen remains a force to be reckoned with. After this interview was conducted (early September 2014), Pen lost his Rebel Armz brother J-Arch over Thanksgiving and recently hosted his tribute show and has been helping raise money for J-Arch’s family. While we don’t talk about this in the interview, Pen does touch on the battle rap game, being pulled from judging the Hollow-Joe Budden battle at Budden’s request, his upcoming album with Chino XL, his writing process, the overuse of hand sanitizer, and much more in this insightful interview.
Some quotes from the feature:
On the growing popularity of hand sanitizer:
First of all, hand sanitizer is like a fad for emergency situations, like when you don’t have access to soap and water, like when you’re on the subway and you’re touching that funky-ass pole for like 45 minutes going from A to B. Of course hand sanitizer definitely comes in handy, no pun intended. It’s definitely a necessity when you’re in situations like that. But people totally forgo soap and water now because they have hand sanitizer now and tha’ts disgusting, man. That’s disgusting. There’s no alternative to soap and water, man. Take your ass to the bathroom and lather your hands up and clean your shit properly.
On his success as a host in the battle rap game:
I’m not surprised because even when I was a little dude back in 2000, I was booking events and battles. They were of a different magnitude, but I was throwing battles before people that are doing it now that are more synonymous with battles now, like Smack and King of the Dot. Even though the battles that we had before, we didn’t realize how much things like YouTube would have meant to people back then or that that was going to be people’s primary source of entertainment, so we went for the live aspect and wanted people to enjoy it firsthand. But I was hosting and booking battles before all these guys. I’ve been doing it before just about everyone who still does it. Before 2000, when I was a real little dude in school, I was battling and I was a part of that. I was honestly a part of the battle scene before I was making music and it kind of spun back around and it blossomed into something big. It kind of became such a big phenomenon that I had to fall back from recording music.
On Joe Budden requesting that he not judge his battle with Hollow Da Don:
Honestly, I still have no answer on that. Dude requested that I not judge his battle and then went and said I was biased. So me being a man, I approached him on it, not on no gangster shit but what are you talking about. Saying I’m biased is throwing extra salt in the game because that’s so far from the truth. So I wanted to know where he was coming from. I hit him up but he’s not offering up too much information. I saw him at the UW event in Jersey and he approached me and said he fucks with me and that he thinks I got some of the information wrong and let’s talk somewhere in the venue. I said, “Bet, we definitely gotta talk.” I don’t know him personally. Of course I know who he is and we’ve encountered each other before, but we never had an incident. But the fact that you’re on the radio and saying that Poison Pen is biased, that’s like slander to me. We have no history with each other so the fact that you’re saying something like that offends me because on this battle shit, you’re an outsider coming over here. This is my house. You’re an outsider coming in and you’re talking about what I am and it’s like, ‘Dude, I don’t have any history with you, nor do I have any ill will towards you like, ‘Fuck you, you’re going to lose.’’ I’m unbiased. I tell people in my own camp when they lose and you can ask anybody in my own camp if that’s true. For him to say that and not even know me personally, I’m going to keep it 100, I did feel some kind of way about that so I did step to him. He told me we need to talk and that we were going to build that day, and then he goes in the venue and doesn’t approach me ever again. Whatever. All a man’s got is his balls and his word and if you can’t man up to your word, it’s whatever. It’s a dead issue to me. You saw what happened. You saw how he looked out there. That had nothing to do with me.
On his writing process:
Back in the day, when I had far fewer responsibilities, I could just write and record. Now I have to do it with a purpose. I don’t have the luxury of rocking and just locking in the studio all day. Those days are long gone. Now when I’m in the lab, I have a deadline and have things to do. Back then it was get the studio for a week, get drunk and obliterated, and just rap. I write when I feel like it. I write when I get the urge and it could strike me at any time. I could be walking down the street and I’m in New York City, and New York City is rapidly changing and I can be on the subway and see something changing and I just start writing right there. Or if I’m just feeling adventurous, I’ll start playing beats. A lot of it just comes from walking and observing things and soaking in my surroundings. Everything I spit comes from my surroundings, how I grew up, and what I see now. I spit about actual factual things, even if it’s just a punchline or I’m saying some smart shit, it’s all based on facts. We take our artistic freedoms but it’s all based on facts. Almost everything I’ve ever written, almost everything I’ve ever written, has started as a freestyle and then I took it and sharpened it up and added on to it and whatever. But it started from me just going through things in my head.