From holding down the bulk of emceeing, along with partner in rhyme A.G., on his crew’s long-awaited new project, Studios, to a gang of new albums coming in the next couple of years, Omar Credle hasn’t even had time to stagnate, much less consider it. Thanks to an impressive range of verses on the new Diggin’ album Studios, O.C. shows why he’s one of the game’s most consistent. In this exclusive interview, we talk the new album, his creative process, why he can’t remake Word…Life and much more.
I love how you started off the Studios album with the first verse. Your first line is “We’ve still got the game in a noose.” Did you know that’d be how the album would start?
Not at all. That was something, you know, Show is like the orchestrator when it comes to the music and the tracklisting and stuff like that. He runs it by us, usually, when he puts together a tracklist. But I didn’t know it was going to start the album off outside of the Big L intro, nah.
That seems like a really fitting way to start it though.
Right. I mean, it is what it is. You know, at the end of the day, I played my position and do what I do and everybody has a position in the crew, even L. L still has a position. He’s not here physically, but anything that we can implement with him and his voice, obviously, is dope.
When you look at Diggin’ in the Crates and still being on top of your game, do you feel like with this album, you’re at your lyrical best?
Honestly, I don’t even think about that. What I do say to myself is people are always pegging “‘90s” MCs and getting stuck in time and blah, blah, blah and I don’t even pay attention to that. I feel like I’ve gotten better over time. With age comes wisdom, you know that whole cliche. To me, there’s no age limit on that, so I do music according and I write lyrics according to what I feel. It’s everyday life we should be drawing from and that’s how I write music. I really don’t pay attention to if I’m at my best. If I feel like or sound like that I’m not bringing it to the table, then I’ll just stop. It’s not going to take somebody to tell me I’m wack at this point. I’ll stop myself.
You talked about the perceptions of MCs from the ‘90s. Do you feel fans expect you to rock over certain beats and rap a certain way? Do you feel trapped by those expectations?
I don’t feel trapped but fans, more or less, get stuck in time. I don’t mean that in a bad way but I can’t, for myself, can’t keep making over Word…Life or whatever album or particular songs they feel like is my best from them or what they love from me. You’ve gotta grow, man, and that comes with everything in life. I just don’t pay attention to the whole ‘90s thing. I really don’t anymore. I used to. It used to bother me but it doesn’t no more.
How did you let it not bother you?
I pay attention but if I did pay attention to, especially in this internet age and comment age, if I paid attention, I would probably be mad every day because people say the darndest things and I have to pay attention and watch and see what people are talking about, but it’s up to me to determine what’s what and what’s good and what’s just shit talk. So at the end of the day, I blank all that out. I just do what I do, man.
You talked about how everybody in Diggin’ in the Crates has different roles. What is your role?
Well, I’m not a producer, per se, in the sense of making music. But I’m a writer so I’m a producer in that sense. So that’s my job. That’s my role. I’m a writer. And I’ll be a writer from the womb to the tomb. And I just always try to make sure that I’m hitting the topics right, the concepts according to the music’s production from the crew, whether it be younger producers or the vet producers, and try to bring hat to life, try to tell a story with the music. That’s my role in it.
What’s that process like for you, bringing the music to life?
If it’s not working, you try something else. We learn to not sit on something. If it’s not working, you keep going at it. If it has the potential to be something, but if it’s just not going to work, you just try something else and I say that to say right now, I got about 40-50 records for my solo album and I know all 40 or 50 records are not going to make it, whether it be the EP or the full-length, but I’m just covering my bases because everything has its place, you know, in one form or fashion and I just create, man. I used to procrastinate before and try to make a song work and keep working on it and I’ve learned over time that you just have to record, make the music, if you listen back to it and it feels right to you, you move on to the next as opposed to 10-15 years ago, trying to correct a song 10 or 15 or 20 times. If it’s not going to work, it’s just not going to work.
Is that easier today with how many beats you can easily get through email and Soundcloud?
Yeah. It’s a big difference. And also I have a lot of beatmakers, lot of producers sending me music. And it’s definitely more accessible to listen out for different stuff. It’s cool, man. This whole cyberage has its pros and cons but I try and weigh out the pros more than the cons though.
I want to talk more about your solo projects too but in looking at the Studios album, you and A.G. dominate the emceeing. Lord Finesse and Fat Joe appear, but not as much. Why do you think it happened that way?
Well, I mean, to be honest me and I was around most of the time. You know, me, A, and Show whereas everybody else was out of town or on the road. You know, Finesse got a busy plate. I think he wants to focus more on production and other things than writing. He has to really feel it to do it. And I respect him for that. Diamond is out of town. Joe is out of town. It’s easy when we can sit and create, but it’s hard to get everybody together sometimes because everybody’s all over the place. Everybody’s not in New York.
With A.G. being in Japan, how do you balance the challenges there?
He was up here for a while when we was doing the project. We was in the lab every day or every other day and we just made sure to accommodate him and get a lot of work done while he was home. And I think Joe was here a lot too ‘cause he was working and he was also working on the project with Remy. So it just made sense. It was no excuse. While they here, let’s get in the lab and just rock out.
What was it like getting back with Pharoahe Monch on “Night Riders,” especially when you look at what you both have meant to each other’s careers through the years?
It’s really a no-brainer. These are the cats that brought me into the game, Pharoahe and Prince [Po]. but it was a no-brainer. People always ask me why I don’t do records with Monch and Prince so much but it’s like everybody’s got their own life, man. And at the end of the day, I can get them on songs a lot, but for me, it has to make sense. And I just don’t do it for the sake of doing it because I can get somebody. I can get a whole bunch of artists but if you look back at my track record, that’s never been my thing. There’s never been too many guest stars or guest MCs on my projects. I’ve always just did it because that’s how I felt. I always wanted to show people that I could carry a project on my own and if it made sense to do a song with somebody, then I would reach out to them, but it is what it is.
A lot of fans like to set up matchups of MCs they’d love to see collab, but it has to make sense to the artists involved.
Exactly. It really has to make sense. If you put your favorite rappers together, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to come out with a great product. And I always tell people Rakim and G. Rap never did a record together and they’re two great artists. But to me, certain things are not supposed to happen or it just has to make sense for it to happen. Like it really has to make sense, man, and sometimes people don’t get that. I understand what aspect they’re coming from to put people together or pair people together, their dream team together, on songs, but the reality of it is that it might not even come out the way you think and you might be disappointed.
Over the years from doing interviews with various D.I.T.C. crew members, new music always came down to Fat Joe not being available. What changed to get him on board with Studios?
I don’t know. I mean, my opinion, I would say, we’re getting older. Things happen and opportunities can pass by and you know, at the end of the day, God forbid, if somebody passes away, you know, that opportunity is forever gone. For me, like, what actually made my situation, what made me step my game up was Pumpkinhead and Sean P passing away. It gave me nostalgia when L died. And I was like, Damn, I have to step my game up. So if you look at the internet, I’ve been doing a lot of work. I’ve been doing a lot of features, calculated things, but you can’t do nothing from the grave, man. You have to get it in right now and I don’t want people to cherish me after I’m gone. I want people to cherish me while I’m here.
I still remember hearing about Pumpkinhead and then hearing about Sean Price later on, both complete shocks and both amazing MCs and artists and even better people. I don’t think you were the only one rocked there.
Yeah. I mean, the hip-hop community was rocked. But what really touched me was I believe the day before Ruck passed, I was in the studio with P.F. Cuttin and you know, they was goin hard. They had just did that album (Songs in the Key of Price) and I was in the studio with P.F. and that Saturday, somebody told me that P died and I got sleep in my eyes and I’m like, Nah, this just can’t be. And I called P.F. and he didn’t answer his phone. And then I text him and he didn’t respond, so I already knew it was true, more or less, because he always takes my calls and he always responds to my texts.
So I just caught that feeling that it was true and then I looked online and obviously it was like, Damn. I didn’t want to believe it like everybody else but it was like, Damn. I didn’t get a chance to work with this dude. We passed each other by a couple of times in P’s studio and we kicked it briefly and that was it. It was like, Damn.
We were about to do an interview for Songs in the Key of Price too and it was amazing to watch him reinvent himself as Sean Price. A lot of our legends are starting to pass away. Are other MCs picking up on that sense of urgency?
Not so much urgency, but you know we are getting up there in age and I don’t feel like personally, you know, contrary to popular beliefs, we’re still young but we’re just older than the generation that’s here right now. And being in your 40s is not an old person. But I didn’t want that as a blueprint and it shouldn’t have taken that to motivate me even more but it did. And it was just like I gotta step my discography up more. I gotta put out more content and create more content because at the end of the day, whether you think about it or not, it’s about legacy and that’s what we feel like in the crew too.
I don’t want to be remembered for Word…Life and Jewelz and Worldwide and Starchild and Bon Appetit. I want to be recognized for my body, for our body of work. Not just for Oh, that’s that ‘90s rapper that died or He had that one song. I don’t want to be remembered like that and I still have more to give. I didn’t want that blueprint to motivate me, but that touched me as a human being, not as an artist.
What was it like reconnecting with Fat Joe after so many years? Was it like it was back when you first recorded?
It’s the same thing. What people don’t realize with Joe is that he had a vision and I always tell people this and I never look at myself like this. When I look at the crew back then, I already knew who was going to be “stars” or “famous,” and for me, it was always Joe and L. I think they wanted it a little bit more rather than being considered an underground artist. And I never considered myself that. This is what people put on me. I’m not an underground artist and I’m not a rapper. I tell people I’m stopped being a rapper when I signed my first deal. I became an artist, a professional, when I signed my first contract and started putting out music for the people.
You know, rapping in my basement back then and trying to learn how to make music and make songs and listening to tapes of other people and the radio, you know, I stopped being a rapper when I signed a record contract. So when people ask me that might not be familiar with me but hear somebody whisper something. Oh, you’re a rapper? I say yeah sometimes and sometimes I say no ‘cause I don’t consider myself no rapper.
Going back to Pharoahe Monch and how long you’ve been linked, even if you don’t consistently work together, what have you been able to learn from him and what does he do that strikes you as amazing?
I don’t know. For me, going back, Monch has been ahead of his time in ‘89. People don’t untasted this. This dude, the person, the artist that y’all are seeing right now, he’s been way ahead of the game 20-plus years ago. To me, there’s people with talent and over-developed talent and then there’s certain people where it’s just God-given. It’s a gift. You know, when you talk about the Jay-Z’s, the Nas’s, the Eminem’s, the KRS-One’s, this dude, he’s right up there with these cats and just sitting around him over the years, I just stay quiet, man, just watching him, just watching him create and go through his asthmatic situation and then getting in the booth. It’s amazing.
And dude is just a genius. That’s how I look at him. He’s a genius and sometimes genius ain’t blessed with or given the fruits, monetarily-wise, star-wise, famous-wise, whatever you want to call it. They’re not meant for that but they’re here. It’s like an Amadeus or something. You know, he’s going to go unnoticed. He’s going to be recognized when he’s long gone, like, Yo, this dude was a problem. And he was a genius. And he’s a genius now and just to see him progress, show-wise and dude is just, he’s amazing, man.
Do you listen to Word…Life or Organized Konfusion music today?
No. I don’t really listen. Once an album is done to me, outside of touring and performing, I don’t even go back and listen to it. I move on. I look at it as chapters in your life cycle. This chapter was meant for ‘94 and the next chapter was meant for the next three years later in ‘97, ‘98, and so forth and so on. That’s how I look at it. And I listen to certain specific records sometimes. I’ll go back and make sure I’m not repeating myself. But yeah, I don’t really go back and listen to any full-lengths like that.
Do you find that fans are stuck on a certain album with you? I’m guessing it would be Word…Life.
Of course. Of course. That in itself, Word…Life, that’s your debut. That’s your birth. And for me, those fans who go back and listen to that, more or less, they’re in my age bracket. So therefore that’s what they always want to hear and it’s not their fault, but I can’t keep repeating that. I can’t. It’s impossible. It would be impossible for me to do a Word…Life2. Put it like that. I don’t know if that makes sense or not. But it would be impossible.
As a fan, I don’t think I’d want to hear you do that.
As a fan of the music myself, I don’t want to hear some of my favorite artists…Some of my favorite artists did follow-ups to their albums and it just takes the oomph out of it for me. They’re trying to expand on the first record and it’s not going to work, man. One might slip through. I’m not saying that Cuban Linx 2 was better than the first one, but I like Cuban Linx 2 from Raekwon, but other than that, there’s not too many people who can pull that off. There’s not supposed to be, though. That’s why.
Exactly. And when you have a debut album that’s as good as Word…Life, do you find fans are always going to say that’s better? Nas faced a similar situation with Illantic.
I was around for Illmatic too. We were both signed to Serch. Just to use that as an example, as a young kid, you’re trying to cram your life from the point of you remember from your childhood up until that point of you putting it down in the studio and you’re trying to get your whole life up until that point up to one ball of clay and that’s just what it is and that’s your debiut, your life up from childhood until you put that record out and you’ll never get that back because that’s your life from childhood up until making that music. That’s what it is. You can’t duplicate your life. You can’t duplicate your childhood. You can’t duplicate your teenage years or your young adult years for that matter.
Did it take you a while to accept that?
Well, that’s why you see so many artists one and done with an album over the years or trying to keep repeating the same cycle and then they get caught up with people telling them to do that and they finally gave in and listen to them and do it and it don’t work. And then you have artists like myself who are, you know, you’re trying to grow with your music because that’s just evolution. You don’t stay 17. You don’t stay 21. So you can’t talk about the same things at 17 at 21. And so forth and so on. So it’s next to impossible to repeat that.
So yeah, at the end of the day, I always try to move on and try different stuff. You know, going back to what we said earlier, just looking online and seeing what people think, they bodied me for that Bon Appetit album and I’m like, to me, for me personally, that was one of my best projects in my mind. You know what I’m saying? And people were saying I Was trying to do sellout music or I was trying to do radio record but if I have to go back and tell you to really listen to that record, then it’s not for you and I’m not comparing myself to a Marvin Gaye, but other records he did, people hated other records from Marvin and Marvin was genius. Barry Gordy said the What’s Going On album was too political because he was used to putting out commercially-hit records, so I learned some things like that, to not do what other people want you to do. I don’t know if that makes sense but that’s just who I follow protocol when it comes to making music.
In your circle, who has the kind of ear that you trust that tells you what sounds good and what shouldn’t come out?
Me. (laughs) Me. I think at this point in the game, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but I believe that people are going to be surprised with this solo project because it’s a lot of young producers on this album and a couple of them knew me. A couple of them didn’t know my backstory but then they went and checked my backstory and I’m not trying to do it for the sake of trying to sound young or any of that. But they’re like, Yo, you still got it! You know, I laugh at it and I don’t take it as a disrespect like I was wack but they’re like, Damn, man!
They really want to work with me and I really want to work with them, so I try to step outside of the box, outside of the Diggin’ production thing, and work with the younger guys because they’re the ones that are up-and-coming and a lot of them have incredible production, so a bulk of that is from them. A lot of the stuff that will be heard, Diggin’ will take up the share of remixing, but it has to fit. And you know, that’s just for me personally. My project, you’re going to remix something, it has to fit.
What do you get out of bringing in newer producers on the Studios album like DJ Manipulator or D-Block vet Vinny Idol instead of the Diggin’ producers handling the production?
That was Show’s brainchild. People gotta understand that D.I.T.C. is a production crew first. D.I.T.C. is a production crew. So it should be obvious to let other new producers shine and that shows that we’re thinking about it. And Show is right. At the end of the day, D.I.T.C. is a producer crew so why not let other producers get their shine on if they have the talent? He brought in a gang of dudes and I was so overwhelmed with music. At some point I was getting 10, 15, 20 joints a day and me and Show actually recorded maybe 20 songs in less than two weeks and they were all crazy songs.
And he was just like, Oh, shit! And we looked at each other and laughed because it was a breath of fresh air and it was just like, Wow, these kids are crazy. The Manipulators. Idol is a young producer to me but he’s seasons. I got Vinny Idol records on the solo project which are bananas. The DJ Manipulator records are bananas. Motif is absolutely, definitely one to look out for in 20 years. And I was just blown away, man. I’m proud of them. And that’s the legacy of D.I.T.C. production and everything else comes second.
When you’re listening to beats, whether it’s for the Studios project or a solo project, what about that beat has to grab your ear and get you to rock it?
I don’t listen to music and pick it apart. I just have to feel it as soon as it comes on. And I was never used to over the years getting an abundance. I mean, the first person who did that was Apollo when me and Apollo did Trophies. He gave me 40 records, 40 beats, at one time and prior to that, even working with crew and other outside production, I never did that. So it was like a kid in the candy store.
Fast forward with all the stuff Show was hitting me with and it was just like, Damn, that’s crazy so now I’m writing to five, six, seven beats simultaneously so now I got books all over my floor. That right there took me back to my basement in my parent’s crib in ‘92 because now I’m writing five or six records simultaneously and I’m making sure that I’m not writing the same thing for different production. And it was just crazy, man. It felt so good because it just opened me up to not trying to pick apart a beat and not take too long in the writing process. It really made me bust my ass and work. And that’s a good thing. That’s always a good thing.
When you look at a song like “Cold Outside” where you’re talking about police brutality, body cams, and so many relevant topics to what’s going on today, how important is a song like that to balance out other songs on Studios and to show fans the social justice side of you?
I always say that I write what’s going on in everyday life. So that was a no-brainer. I mean, police brutality has always been happening, but it’s just now being captured on video. It’s always been there. So at the end of the day, topics like that…And I’m Black, so I can feel the pain of the people and I’ve experienced certain things just like they did. I’m not exempt from none of that shit, but I’m not involved in the streets and running the streets anymore as opposed to being a young guy like that, so I don’t get into situations like that too tough, but I can relate and I know the people can relate.
So it’s not preachy to me. It’s just something that I can talk about that maybe the average person just can’t voice. Well, that’s a double standard because everybody raps nowadays, but at the end of the day, I know that I’m a voice of myself and I’m a voice of the people and it’s not a responsibility that I personally took on, it just happened that way.
And the name of my record is The Same Moon, the Same Sun and just to jump on that real quick, that goes for all people on the planet. We live under the same moon and the same sun and none of us can escape that. Black, white, Hindu, Puerto Rican, Asian, whatever you may be and I feel like things like that title is absolutely relatable to everybody and I think that people will pay attention to that. It’s a no-brainer.
And that’s the solo album that you have 40-50 songs for.
From interviewing artists over the years, the two most popular methods for making albums are recording only what fits for the album or recording a lot of songs and seeing what fits. Why does that method work for you?
I mean, I don’t know. It just works for me because when you’re recording a specific amount of records, and I’ve done that in the past with the exception of maybe five or six extra songs, it gives you room to see what you’re working with as opposed to…I came up with the title early on so everything has to coincide with that title, so I already knew what the title and the name of the album was going to be.
So to shorten this answer, I just looked at it as the more music that I record, I’ll have room or Show will have room to pick and choose what best fits in that manner. Me and him made it a conscious decision to take it back and I was going to let him choose everything and I was just going to record the music. And he was like, Cool, let’s do it like that. I went in there and recorded songs and I’m probably down to four or five a day but I was actually doing more than that and he usually spends four or five days in the studio sometimes, working on numerous things, numerous projects.
So I’ll go in and in the studio or in the office suite or he’s handing business and I’ll record and I’m out and I’ll go into my computer and pull up the next batch of beats and I tell him I’ll be back in the next day or so to record all these songs. We got a lot of catching up to do. It’s been a while with Design’ and that’s how me and him and the crew, for that matter, are looking at to but for the moment, me and him are looking at it like we gotta catch up, content-wise, eblouie prior to that, we haven’t put out an album since Worldwide or The Movement, and for that I believe he had songs lying around.
So we haven’t put out music in a long time and we have an inconsistency of not putting out music back-to-back and we’re trying to change that model of making music and of putting it out to the people. It’s a different day, man. You can’t wait a year for that matter, anymore. You have to put out music so that’s why he’s been bombarding the Soundcloud and giving away the music and stuff like that. And that’s the reason going back to all the music I recorded, some of that shit we’re going to give away. Some of that shit we’re just going to leak, just to let people know that we’re to playing an we’re dead-on about being consistent from here on out. That’s the whole business model right now.
Back in the day you could live off an album for a couple years. Do you feel the pressure to produce, produce, produce at this point and to always have something new?
Nah. I don’t feel no pressure. And like I said, if you sift through the net right now, I’ve done a lot of calculated guest features. I’ve done a lot of stuff and people are watching right now like, O’s going hard right now but they don’t even know the half of that. They just know that as going hard and they’re going to get tired of me at some point because I got projects coming. I got the Apathy project coming, Perestroika. I got the project with P.F. and I don’t know if I told you in our last interview that me and Oh No are kicking around the idea of doing a project. I got the project with O.Gee, he’s a part of D.I.T.C. too. Me and Buck want to close our legacy up with another album together. Damn, what am I forgetting?
You, Bumpy, and Premier were going to do something at one point.
Yeah. That was Preem’s idea. I’m going to put him on blast. You see Bumpy doing his thing. Oh, I got a project with Nottz. That’s in the works. I think Bump is finishing up a project with Nottz and I believe they also got the project done jup with Ogeeology joining with him, Treach, and Trick Trick. I guess in the sense of us, being the statesmen of this shit, it’s sort of an urgency but I’m not looking at it in this sense, but it definitely woke me up with someone do my peers passing. It could have been me for that matter, or some of my crew. It has already been some of our crew. We can’t play with this shit, man. Life is too short.
It’s great to hear you have so many projects in the works. The Apathy collab album sounds really interesting. Where are you at with that?
The project is done. I think it’s slated for the fall. The project is crazy. The project is called Perestroika. The group is called Perestroika. From the first day, when I went up to Connecticut to see Ap, ti’s two different styles, totally, but it works. It more than works. I don’t know what was going to come of that but when we recorded the first record, I knew it was going to be something magical here. I was surprised. I’m not saying I didn’t think it was going to work. He’s a dope MC and he makes dope music and dope songs, but it’s two different worlds.
Were you a fan of Apathy before you came together?
I didn’t know Ap prior to that. He had a picture of us meeting at a Rocksteady event 15 years ago, but prior to that, I’m going to be honest, I didn’t listen to Ap that fluid and not because I didn’t think he was dope. I wasn’t listening to a lot of people. I wasn’t really checking for music at one point. I was at a crossroad in my mind. Do I still want to do this? Am I still going to be involved in this music? Love the music, hate the game.
Great Sean Price line.
Yeah. That’s where my mind was at. Anyway, we met at the Organized Konfusion reunion and he brought the tape of Word…Life with him for me to sign and I was like, Wow. The physical tape. We exchanged numbers and we chopped it up and he was like, we talked a while, and he was like, What do you think about me doing a project for you? I was like, Mmm. I didn’t know how extensive he was with the production until later on but as we spoke more and as we kicked it more, he was like, What do you think about us doing a project together. I told him it was different and I would be open to that. I went up to Connecticut and it just happened. It was his vision so I just let him man the ship. I think he was a little surprised and taken aback that I wasn’t like, Nah, I’m not feeling that beat. Everything we did, I did and sent it back, then he told me to come up here and I did and we started recording. The songs were coming out crazy. The next thing you know, the album is finished.
Apathy handled the production and was on the mic?
He handled some of the production. Some of the production was done from outside producers, but for the most part, he executive produced most of the situation. It was his brainchild and I didn’t want to be second-guessing and being an asshle talking about “I ain’t feeling that.” There was a method to his madness and I saw that. And he has an ear for the music. I can’t front on that. His ear for music is impeccable. I just trusted everything he was doing after the first couple of joints. He called me up and told me he had an idea and that he laid focals for it and tell him what I think. I would write to it and go up to Connecticut and record it. I wasn’t saying no to nothing. He was sending me stuff and he said, Yo, we good? You feel it? And I’m like, Yeah. If I’m not saying nothing, that’s a good thing. He was like, I just wanted to make sure. You had me in the dark. I told him what he was pacing was dope. The titles, concepts, he came up with all of that so he kind of made it easy for me.
Does your writing process change depending on the album you’re working on?
Of course. I’m not the same person that wrote Word…Life or Jewelz or Bon Appetit or Starchild of that matter as opposed to the Worldwide album. I mean personally, I feel like I progressed and I feel like I ain’t lost a step. I’ve actually gotten ten times better. I’m ten times better as a writer than I was when I started. And that’s how it should be. You know, usually artists tend to hit a pinnacle and then start to decline. I feel like personally, I haven’t done that and you know, I’m blessed.
How does an O.C. verse come together?
It ain’t no real spiritual incense…I just, I sit in front of music, I sit in front of the computer with my music and I write a word, I write a line. And just zone out. And just write what I’m feeling. Some make the cut, some don’t. But it’s really no specific process for me. It’s so much going on today though in this day and age and just in the world period, I just draw off of that. It’s too much stuff to talk about for me not to have something to write about. There’s just so much things, so many things going on, man, good and bad. You have to sort of balance it out. That’s probably the more challenging process right there. But for the most part, you know, we have everything we need in front of us and that’s everyday life.
When you look at that, do you ever find a verse you used on a song that might not see the light of day and reuse that verse somewhere else?
I’ve done that a couple of times, but rarely have you ever heard a joint that I’ve done or repeated on somebody else’s stuff on different music. It’s always something new. I feel a certain way. I feel like that’s lazy if I go and look in some notebooks and just try to match it up to production because it might not fit. Most times it won’t fit because I didn’t write it to that production so that rhyme that you pulled out, it’s not going to fit. It could happen but for the most part, I would rather not take that chance. I would rather sit and take that chance with something that’s totally new that’s in front of me. And I enjoy it.
You don’t see that as work but more of a passion.
Yeah. I enjoy it, man. It’s the book of my life, man. So every year is a chapter. You know, if you want to get into some more mystical, crazy, that’s how I look at it though. Living life is like chapters and everybody’s life to me is a book. It has an introduction, epilogue, and an ending. That’s for everybody if you look at it in that philosophical type of thought process. That’s how I look at it. Everything has a beginning and an ending. So I’m writing from my perspectives on life and sometimes other people’s perspectives, but shit is like a book, man.
When I talked to Lord Finesse, he said he wants to do one more album and then he’s done, but it sounds like you see no end in sight.
Yeah. I’ma ride it ‘til the wheels fall off. But if I sound like it’s not going to take you or anybody for that matter to go, “O, you’re sounding a little dated. You’re not that into it.” It’s not going to take nobody to tell me that. When I feel it or hear it, that’s when I’m going to stop. That’s when I’m going to put that pen down. I ain’t goin out like that, where people say I’m wack or I’m trash. Nah. It ain’t gonna take people telling me that. You gotta be a realist about things. I believe that sometimes we’re our own worst critic but sometimes you have to make that decision yourself to step away from something and when it’s time, I’ll make that decision for myself. Nobody else is going to make that decision for me.
You’ve been through many deals and said how you wished you had stayed independent back in the day.
I’d have been super-rich! (laughs) I’d have been super-rich being an independent. I’m proud of these dudes who are independent artists. We opened the doors for people. I’m proud of them. That’s a great thing because you have your destiny in your own hands.
If you were to do another album with Apollo or anyone else, is everything a one-off deal where you keep your publishing?
Yeah, basically. At this point, I’ve been with BMI since ‘91. Anything that I do, whether I’m paid upfront or not, I register everything. Everything. All my work is registered. I’m gonna get paid one way or another. But those kind of situations that I’ve done, you don’t see me doing that a lot. I don’t just do albums with people. It has to make sense. You know, I might have done that in the past two years the past three, four years, I’ve done a project with Apollo and I’ve done an EP with this brother from Australia named Debonair P called Dive In and it was just certain things that I do for reasons of my own, but I get a thousand of those a day. Yo, I want to do an album with you. Okay. You know what I’m saying? I want to do an album with Stevie Wonder, but is it going to get done?
Everybody’s not meant for this music shit, man. That’s one thing I will say. Everybody’s not meant to make music, man. This shit is overflooded. That’s probably one pet peeve I do have about the music industry, is it’s just too much. It’s too much to digest for the listener. And I have both sides. I’m on both sides. I’m a fan first and I’m an artist second. I was a fan before I became an artist. So it’s just too much, man. Now people gotta filter through a lot of this shit and I think you lose your attention when you gotta filter through so much.
It’s cool to hear you’re getting back with Buckwild based on what you did together on Word…Life. What’s it like working with him in 2016. Has anything changed?
I don’t know yet. Me and him haven’t done anything. We were actually supposed to start a project but you know, Buck is still working so I didn’t want to wait so then, you know, we actually told Show that we were going to do a project, start a project, and he was like, Dope, when are y’all gonna start? But Buck had stuff on his plate, so I stepped to Show like, You, since you got all these beats in the computer from a lot of these new producers, why don’t me and you do a project together? And he was like, Let’s do it. And we started recording right away. So as far as with Buck, I’m going to let him get what he needs to get off his plate and then we’re going to rock out. But I need that to happen. He needs, wants that to happen. It has to happen before it’s all said and done. I’d rather him be one of the closing chapters in my career, closing out another album with Bucky.
I think fans would love to see that happen, especially without having to compare it to Word…Life.
Right. And it would just be full circle for me and him because if it wasn’t for him, I believe, he says otherwise, but he says if it wasn’t for me, people wouldn’t know him, but I told him he’s bugging. But literally for me, if it wasn’t for him, he set the precedent for me in the game with “Time’s Up” and with Word…Life for that matter. It was just like a no-brainer and we were comfortable. We argued. We went back and forth about music and you know, it just made sense. People didn’t realize with Jewelz, there was other producers on that record but I left it up to Buck to approve what made the cut on that album. I didn’t care who it was, Preem, whoever. But it started with him and it had to make sense. So Buck approved those Preem records as opposed to what he did for the album and it fit. It matters to me what he thinks.
The way Jewelz played out and was sequenced, I think he nailed it.
Yeah. We’re all family and we all approved. And Preem is a genius too, listening to what I’d done prior to working together. He listened to what I had already and he made sure it fit into the scheme of things. That’s family and it was a crew effort. And Beatminerz and Diggin’. It was one tribe really. With the exception of “Dangerous,” none of them liked that idea. That was my idea. It was like, nobody liked that shit. I had to write Walt a check to sample that for me.
Do you think they were right today or are you glad you stick with it?
Yeah. I was adamant about it. I was like, This is a park jam record. I know it had been done before me. Shan did it. Salt N Pepa did it. But I had a vision about the record and it included L. I was like, I need this record done. And the crew was like, Hell no, we ain’t doing that shit. So I stepped to Walt and he was like, Nah. And I was like, Will these three zeroes help you? And he was like, Hell yeah. But I still don’t like it. And I was like, You don’t have to like it. You’re getting paid for it. Do it and see what I’m trying to do. So he did it and he was like, Okay, okay, it makes sense. I thought you was just trying to catch a radio record. Nah. This is authentic hip-hop. This is one of those joints when it came on in the park, it was popping but we’re doing an updated version and it worked.
Did the other guys buy into it once they heard the final product?
They weren’t feeling it until the response and the feedback. When the record came out and like I said, I wasn’t targeting radio with it, but I believe at the time you had Busta Rhymes had “Dangerous” out too so this is actually really the first time I caught daytime radio play, which I wasn’t targeting, and primetime. This was a record Flex was spinning back to back and other DJs around the country on daytime radio and I was like, Wow. This wasn’t even the target. And Fat Joe was like, Yo, y’all need to do a video to this shit. And I was like, Yeah. Only his genius saw a video for that. I don’t see a video for that. I didn’t want to fracture…I didn’t want people to look at me as trying to do sell-out music even though that’s not what it was. But yo, this record just picked up on radio without being worked and it was just like, it was crazy. It was crazy, man. And me and L, we was rocking for a minute. We did a lot of shows. We made a lot of money behind that record. But I didn’t want to lose my core base either, thinking I was trying to do radio records or target that.
In your circles, that’s the kiss of death.
Once you get that, you can’t come back, man. You can’t come back. And that’s why I say Joe is a genius. Once he crossed over, like he had hits after hits after hits. And it worked for him. But I don’t know if that would have worked for me.
I think that’s what made the ‘90s so great and what fans love so much about it, that high standard for music and feeling like artists loved what they were doing and were real about what they were saying. I don’t think fans hold artists to as high of a standard today. You’re either a hater…
Or an old head. As annoying as it probably is to talk about what the ‘90s were like, is that one of the positives of the ‘90s, the high standards fans had for the music?
Of course. You had variety. Everybody didn’t sound the same. Everybody set a bar when they put out their music, or tried to. And at the end of the day, man, I’m proud of that era. I’m very proud of the artists that came out of that era. But I’m not one to shit on the younger generation. I can’t do that because I was in their place at one time. The difference with me and them is hopefully one day they’ll have a talk in an interview like this and make them look back and talk about it and hopefully still be around.
But you know, people always try to trap me, man. Yo, what do you think about the new shit? Shit is trash, right? No, I can’t say that. What’s trash to our ears might be treasure to others, especially the younger generation. The only problem I do have with the music business is that the machine makes it a young and older thing with hip-hop specifically. Now, rock doesn’t do that. Country music doesn’t do that. Reggae music doesn’t do that. Latin music doesn’t do that. The only genre of music that does that is hip-hop. It’s a billion dollar business and to me, it’s the new rock and roll. You know, you see all these, if you go back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, you see all these groups coming through and it’s like, you know, one group comes through and they’re hot, they’re popular, and then the next one comes through and it’s the same sort of cliche but I can’t shit on them. I can’t talk about the younger generation. They have to go through the same shit that we went through and you might have had the older artists cry to us saying the same thing about us, so I can’t say that.
And one thing I will defend is when people call us ‘90s artists “old heads,” it’s like, shit, what do you call Rakim, KRS-One, & Slick Rick and them? What do you call Chuck D? If I’m an old head, then they’re grandfathers? They’re the grandfathers of this shit? There’s people still around prior to them. Melle Mel is still around. Caz is still around. Flash is still around. Some of the Fantastic are still around. You know what I’m saying? It’s like a lose-lose conversation but personally for me, I say let them do what they do. You’re not going to hear me shit-talk about the younger generation. I can’t do that.
I think that’s dope. It ultimately turns fans off from checking for you too.
Exactly. If it’s not your cup of tea, don’t listen to it. But hip-hop as a whole, we have to figure out how to change that perception, man, young and old. If I’m not mistaken and you look at the Forbes list, shit, Madonna, the Rolling Stones, they’ve been around longer than Madonna. You see their tour gross and shit like that. They still touring. Bono and them. Come on, B. These dudes, if you want to talk monetary, shit, they’re some of the highest-grossing artists still around. Tour-wise, they turn around and do a show tomorrow and you put up tickets, they sell out tomorrow.
And they have a lot of fans that grew up with them as teenagers.
Yeah, but i see these festivals on TV and there’s young people at these festivals too. It’s a mixture. I’ve seen, not to keep dragging on about it, but I’ve seen probably 10-15 years back, and don’t quote me on this, but I seen a Grateful Dead concert being touted at Madison Square, and it might have been longer than that, but that shit was sold out in less than an hour. And I went to the city, I was out there and yo, that shit was so crazy out there at nighttime. I was like, Damn! Grateful Dead fans, they ain’t put an album out in a long time and it was young and old. Young, middle-aged, and their core fans. And that shit just blew me away.
Do you think Diggin’ in the Crates can have that same following down the road?
I wish we could! But here’s the thing – the standards in hip-hop is 17-25 and then they usher in new artists. We gotta stop letting the machine dictate because all they’re thinking about is a dollar and that’s feasible for them and their pockets and it’s like yo, what about the artists themselves? We have to figure a way out to mesh that shit together. You know, the younger generation and the generation before them. I mean, you still see Ice Cube selling out festivals. He can’t do clubs. But I think it should be more than that. It should be more than just Ice Cube. Cypress…It’s a no-brainer, man.
But at the end of the day, we can’t let the machine dictate and it’s been dictating that. I see a lot of the younger dudes talk reckless, man, but it’s because, I would say it’s because they’re misunderstood and they misunderstand what is, and I say that to say when you got an older head telling you, “Yo, when you jump off this building from two stories, you might break your leg,” I probably would have not listened to these dudes back int the day either. I want to try it anyway. Fuck it. And that’s just young people, man. You can’t preach to ‘em, man. You gotta show ‘em and you gotta, more or less, try to understand them.
I don’t know if that makes sense, man, but I didn’t want to be preached to when I was their age either. I didn’t want to hear what you was talking about, whether it was right or wrong. You can’t wag your finger at them. You have to meet at some sort of common ground and let them see. Shit, Preem is doing DJ gigs bigger than a lot of the younger artists or probably at the same equivalent as them. Festivals. You go online and he’s DJing and got a whole crowd going crazy, the same with EDM and all that shit. It’s a common ground, man. We just gotta figure this shit out though.
Gerard Woodley was recently murdered and he was the top suspect in Big L’s murder. Does that bring any kind of closure to you?
I mean, I had closure a long time ago, man. My thing is we keep his name alive. We keep his spirit alive. And that’s all that matters to me. Nobody knows, nobody can’t bring him back, and that’s just life. You know what I’m saying? It could have happened to any one of us and I don’t know that dude and I don’t know what transpired to bring on those events so I don’t even talk about it. I had closure with L’s death a few years after it happened. You think about it now, it’s been over 15 years he’s gone. Time flies. It just seems like yesterday. So it is what it is, man. And you know, if dude did have something to do with that, you know, look what happened.
Milano isn’t on the Studios album, but I know he’s still doing it. Have you stayed in touch?
Yeah. We just did a record for DJ Skizz’s album called “Overseas.” Whatever he needs, he got it. Anything D.I.T.C.-affiliated is always whatever that person needs. It’s done. ‘Cause you’re talking about our legacy. You’re talking about our name. You’re talking about association, man. Any of them guys need verses, production, they always can get it. You know, that’s home. That’s home for them, always. But Milano is his own man. He’s doing his own thing. He’s got his own path to walk. But we definitely did the record on Skizz’s album. I’m proud of him because he’s walking his own walk at this point.