DXnext: Da Circle
Immortal Technique and Viper Records' Bronx and Brooklyn connects talks about their just-released "360 Deal" debut, and how they're waving the flag high for hard-body New York Hip Hop.
All it takes is one listen through a track from Da Circle to realize why their motto in the booth is simply “just rhyme homie.” Born and bred in Brooklyn and the Bronx respectively, Goodtime Slim and Fatz D’ Assassin have spent years modeling their craft after the greats of yesteryear while bringing a new edge to a climate currently at odds with the true meaning of emceeing. Their tenacious productivity soon earned them a spot on independent stronghold Viper Records, the home of underground veteran Immortal Technique.
Touring with Tech extensively, the duo made their presence known while continuing to build their musical catalog, including the 2009 collection Circle Muzik Vol. 1 and their 2010 Statik Selektah-hosted mixtape The S.A.F.E. (The Slim And Fatz Episodes). With their debut album The 360 Deal finally upon us, Da Circle look to spread their movement by feeding the Hip Hop heads that hunger for strictly dope beats and rhymes.
Prior to The 360 Deal being released, Da Circle spoke with DXnext about what their new project brings to the table, why their original debut was scrapped, and how that motivated them. Da Circle also recall their unexpected chance to finally bless an Immortal Technique album-cut (“Rebel Arms” off The 3rd World) after paying their dues over the years.
Answering Their Calling: “Every time we would do something, whether it was show, a showcase, freestyle for somebody or send our joint out to a label, we always got positive feedback,” said Slim. “It was always, ‘Yo, you guys could work on this, you guys should work on that, but you guys are dope, keep doing what you’re doing.’ We always had somebody somewhere telling us don’t stop on the path you’re on and keep it up. So as we progressed and as we matured as artists, we were like, we could really do this. So we just decided to stop playing around.” Fatz added, “We knew a lot of people who were underground artists, so we were around that influence of emcees doing their own thing. But it got to the point where we looked at the direction Hip Hop was going and we realized we was better than like 85-90% of the people that were out there flourishing. So we felt like it was a call of duty to go out there and represent the era that we grew up on.”
Circle Muzik Vol. 1: Fatz explained, “That wasn’t a label situation or anything, we put that out on our own. At the time we were touring a lot with Immortal Technique, and we were performing a lot of those songs, so we just put it together and threw it out there.” Expanding on that thought, Slim stated, “The majority of the songs from that release were performed all over the United States and a lot of spots in Europe, and they just got such a positive reaction from the fans and the supporters. Fatz was like, ‘Yo, we need to put this album out for mass consumption ‘cause people are digging it.’ That was no label backing, there was no help from nobody. That was all us.”
On Immortal Technique’s “Rebel Arms”: "You want to hear a funny story about that track? He was in the studio recording The 3rd World , and we were like, ‘What’s up? When we gonna get on these beats man? We need to get on this album!’ That dragged on for a while. Then one day, I get a phone call out the blue. ‘Yo, where you at? Get to the studio right now, I got this beat for y'all.’ Fatz got the same call, he was up in the Bronx and I was out in Brooklyn, so we was high steppin’ to the studio. I sat on the floor and wrote my joint. It was so crowded in the studio Fatz was leaning against the wall doing his joint, and we banged it out just like that. That’s how that song came about.”
On The S.A.F.E.: “For those that don’t know, The S.A.F.E. was actually the first album we ever worked on,” said Fatz. “The title of the album was the same, but we had totally different songs on this album. We submitted these songs to a lot of different blog sites to get sponsorship for the project so we could brand it. We got a lot of negative feedback and guys were saying, ‘Aww naw, it doesn’t sound right,’ blah, blah, blah. I’m not gonna say who, I’ll just say we got negative feedback. So we took that as a personal challenge and banged out that project in two sessions.” “Everything you hear on The S.A.F.E. project now was brand new,” added Slim. “We took the script, ripped it up, went right back to the drawing board and in two days we banged out everything that you hear on The S.A.F.E. That’s all new material, we didn’t have any of that until we went in.”
Using Hate As A Motivation: Slim continued, “We was pissed off because that first S.A.F.E. project, that was like our baby! That was the first project we had ever completed; our heart and soul was in those songs. So when we got back negative reviews it was like, ‘You know what? Watch.’ We was definitely pissed off so we went up in the studio angry, just angry. That’s why The S.A.F.E. had that edginess vibe to it. Like if you listen to that project, and listen to the hooks we came up with, the concepts we came up with, the way we were spittin’ our bars, that was us saying, “I’m gonna show you I’m nice. You’re not gonna front on me and tell me that you’re not feeling Slim and Fatz.’ Every song we went in with that attitude.”
“The engineer we worked with, he was like, “You guys want a break?’ We said, ‘Nope.’ He had to literally stop us like, ‘I’m going to take a cigarette break, get something to eat,’ because we was there the first thing in the morning and we was not leaving. We were on a mission, it was crazy.”
“One thing I’ll say as for artists now, you have to keep a lot of content out there, you have to work, work, work,” stated Fatz. “And there’s nothing wrong with having a strong work ethic. But also, it’s kind of difficult for an artist because it doesn’t allow you time to really sit and perfect the song. You just have to record fast, you have to get used to going into a session and bang out six songs just because. You have to keep it going, and that’s what we did. We went in there, threw on the beat and rocked. I can’t tell you how many gallons of water we went through." [Laughs]
“Imagine The Game If Rappers Were Real Emcees”: “I think that, first of all there are too many ‘quote unquote’ emcees in the game right now,” said Fatz. “I always liken the Rap game to the drug game. When you have so many independent people jumping on the block with their little product, not everyone will have good product. They may have it, but it’s not good. So that makes the consumer really tentative to buy anything because there’s a lot of trash out there.” Slim chimed in, “If the game still had real emcees dominated it, you wouldn’t see none of that. Because the day that it became okay to follow the trend of what was successful in Hip Hop, that’s when the shit switched to what it is now. Before, if you sounded like somebody else, you wouldn’t even be heard. You’d go to a deejay, pass off your record and be like that’s me, and if you sounded like Method Man or Jay-Z or Biggie they’d be like, ‘Aight, see ya later. When you get your own style come back and see me.’ Now, you’re not getting heard unless you sound like whoever’s at the top of the charts.”
The New Consumer Formula: Fatz theorized, “Let’s say with The 360 Deal, that you as a consumer listen to the first single and you may go out and buy the first single because you’re like, ‘Wow, this shit is hot.’ Then the second single comes out and you’re like, ‘Wow, this shit is hot too.’ And that single is only going to cost you a dollar like the first one did. Then the next single comes out and you’re thinking, ‘Hold up, this is all from the same fuckin’ project? Let me go see what the rest of the project is all about.’ It may take more time for you to want to invest in me, but I feel confident in the fact that if I keep my energy and my track record good with you as a consumer, then you’re going to want to buy what I’m putting out.” Slim added, “Like Fatz said, the only hindrance is that it won’t be an immediate thing. And honestly, it’s not supposed to be, it was never like that. Nobody was able to just come out with one song and everyone said, ‘Oh shit, he’s the hottest in the game right now.’ You had to put out joints for people to even respect you as an emcee. So I’d rather it take the consumer four or five weeks to make up their mind about me to know they fuck with Da Circle as opposed to making a snap judgment one way or the other after two days and one song. Because once you get that person as a supporter and keep doing what you’re doing to keep them, you got them for life.”
Digital Age & Ground Work: “Nobody ever wants to see their debut album keep getting pushed back,” explained Fatz. “Here lies the problem; we had extensive tour history with Immortal Technique. We toured the globe with him, not just the states but the globe. We both have shoe boxes full of boarding passes. But as far as the media and the internet, we didn’t have a history that people could draw upon. So we chose to push things back to kind of work on our presence online as well as in the streets and in the media. So with you doing this interview right now, you have projects that you can speak on that you’ve heard before leading into The 360 Deal. We didn’t want to try to prove ourselves on our first album. We took time to take the necessary steps to build somewhat of a brand so that people could be looking forward to supporting this album.”
On The 360 Deal: Outlining their new album, Slim asserted, “We’re going to break it down for you. The name is Da Circle. Da Circle is 360 degrees, which is a complete cycle, so it’s supposed to encompass everything. You’re not going to hear anything on the album that’s superficial; it’s real shit that we deal with. We got songs on there where we’re happy, we got songs on there talking about how we grind (i.e. ‘4 Profits’). We got songs where we’re touching on real life issues (i.e. ‘Napalm’), or songs where we’re talking about personal stuff. There’s this one song on The 360 Deal called ‘Going Crazy’ where Fatz and I are spitting about the things in life that just drive us insane.”
“We got a couple of party joints on there, and we also talk about the females on there because Slim and Fatz love the ladies. We have an affinity for the female persuasion. [Laughs] There’s a lot of different topics, but in each topic that we discuss we attack it the vintage Hip Hop way. I cannot drive that point home any clearer. Vintage meaning lyrical, the beats are banging, and we’re not just going to go out there and say something like, ‘I’m going to punch you in the face.’ I’m going to say in like eight bars very detailed, specific, and clever how I’m going to punch you in the face.” Fatz added, “When you’re recording, sound waves have something that’s called an ‘ADSR’: Attack, decay, sustain and release. Every song that we make also has a formula, and we stick to it. It has to have a topic, it has to be clever, but it also has to make you groove. We can’t get away from the fact that Hip Hop is a form of release to people. So when people turn on your record they have to be able to forget what was on their mind for those three to four minutes. They have to lose themselves inside that song. We try to do that with every song.”
Keeping The Features Close To Home: With the likes of Immortal Technique, Ill Bill and Poison Pen included on the debut, Slim firmly explained, “We didn’t want to have a bunch of different people that we weren’t comfortable with as far as what they were going to talk about or how they were going to say it because at the end of the day, it’s our album. We wanted to make sure that if we were going to put somebody on there that wasn’t Da Circle, it should still sound similar to what we want. We want you to know what we’re coming with, what we’re providing. So we couldn’t have a song on there with somebody that doesn’t rhyme about the shit we rhyme about, because now we’ve just thrown off the whole vibe of what we want you to hear. That’s like having M.O.P. on a record with Mos Def; it don’t make sense. And you know, M.O.P. is hard-body, Mos Def is hard-body, they’re three dope artists but as a mix it don’t work. So we decided to keep it in-house because we know that our crew rocks the way we rock and their message will be similar to what we would say.”
Their Legacy Coming Full Circle: “My goal as an individual is I want to leave my mark in this game, so that when people bring up the name Fatz D’ Assassin of Da Circle, they’ll say he was nice. As far as a group, I want to leave a long lasting legacy for other groups to follow, because one thing that Hip Hop is devoid of right now is groups. A lot of people are on that whole individualistic ‘me me me’ thing. I want to resurrect as a group the legacy of what a real Rap duo is.” Slim added, “Everything that Fatz said is definitely on point, but as an individual I want to be out there and be respected by my peers in this game. I want to be respected by the supporters of the culture, and I want you to know that Hip Hop means something. It’s turned into people just trying to get a quick buck out of it. The game is being pimped hard body right now, and that’s what Fatz meant when he said there are too many emcees out there. Motherfuckers ain’t doing it for the love like they used to do. When people look at Da Circle, I want them to know that every time I rap, I spit from the heart. This is my life; there is nothing else.”