Freddie Foxxx: Beware Of The Fury...
These could be the kind of messages that one pastes to the walls of their college dormitory, or the walls of their jail cell. In fact Freddie Foxxx is nothing but time and strength-tested street wisdom, speaking to both sides of that pendulum. After 19 years of releasing albums, several disenchanting record deals, Foxxx, later as Bumpy Knuckles, embraced a role as underground rap superstar, making critically-acclaimed and commercially successful albums, without radio play or major-label backing.
Talking to HipHopDX about spirituality, his evolution as a songwriter, giving back to prison inmates and his oft underplayed production sensibilities, Freddie Foxxx's wisdom unfolds as a true, living and thriving testament to one of those quotes he's lived by - "Beware of the fury of a patient man." Respected for his raps, known for his knuckle-game, it is time to praise this emcee's patience.
HipHopDX: In the insert to Crazy Like A Foxxx, you have a number of inspirational quotes. Beware of the fury of a patient man; how true is that of this album?
Freddie Foxxx: One thing about me is, Im always thinking. When I say, Beware of the fury of a patient man, its that what builds up in me is my desire to win when people are always telling me, I cant. I cant. I cant. I cant. Its fury in the context of, when I come back, Im gonna come back with a vengeance. The patience is me taking my time and putting together the right project, and making sure I think hard about what my criticisms are from the public - the negative things that they say about me, the conspiracies that they put together to keep from coming through the door, the so-called black-balling and all of that stuff. That kinda stuff is what Im talking about. The patience is me saying, Okay, instead of going around beatin up everybody like Im some wild dude that they all expect me to be, let me put together the right project and strike with a vengeance and let it be my musical fury that I step into.
So what I did was, I put out this thing called The O.G. If you go to my MySpace page [click to read], youll see a link. Thats the fury that Im talking about. I dropped it right after Crazy Like A Foxxx came out so people could see my evolution from 94 till now, lyrically, flow-wise, [and] the kinda content Im comin after. Im making a lane for rappers from the 90s by doing this, and I made it a free download so people can get it and hear it.
DX: Along those lines, some of the press that youve already done for this, youve talked a lot about the way people make albums, and talk about them. Singles aside, I waited 14 years to hear this. You look at a track like Project Mice, and its interesting to me. Youve built a reputation as an honest, personal rapper. Back then, you appear to be more of a storyteller. Whether the stories were true or not, how did you evolve to get more personal?
Freddie Foxxx: You know what happened? I got angry, man. Im very transparent when Im upset about something. A lot of my anger flows through my creative pipeline. When I did [1989s] Freddie Foxxx Is Here, I went into the music business blind. I couldnt believe the first time I walked into the hallways of MCA Records. The first meeting I had, I said, I want to make [a song] with Barry White. I thought here was a guy I have his records at home, and I get a chance to pick who I want to make records with. It wasnt real. I realized I was only signed to keep Eric B happy. So that was a disappointment for me. Now that I know I aint a priority, how do I maximize the situation? So I said, At least let me get my name in the street. Thats why youll always hear me say that the biggest thing that the record industry ever did for me was make my name popular by putting promotion on me.
When I did Freddie Foxxx Is Here, youll hear records like The Ladies Jam and all these happy, emcee records, cause I was learning what the Cold Crush 4 used to do. They used to make records that made people feel good. After my deal went sour and I wasnt getting the attention that I thought I deserved as a artist, and money was being stolen by the in-house promotion team, [I couldn't make happy music]. They was writin POs that I wasnt privy to. There was a lot of thievery going on. My transition was, Okay, what do I do now? So I went on a prison tour, and I went to jails and was doing live performances in jail houses for all the inmates to build me an audience. Then, when I got my deal with Flavor Unit to do Crazy Like A Foxxx, thats why I dedicated my album to the prison inmates. Because I had learned a lot from there. I had a lot of people that I was close to, friends and family, that was in prison. I did something for them for doing something for me. They brought me into the penitentiary system to do those performances, and I dedicated the album to them.
Then, when I got from that point to Industry Shakedown, is when I decided to talk about what I learned about the industry and how foul it was how crooked it was. I thought the MCA deal was bad, but the Flavor Unit deal was even worse. It was the worst deal. The worst person in the world is the person who thinks theyre as powerful as a label and can do the same kind of under-handed stuff. Youd think a little man would want to ride with you, but they think theyre bigger than they really are, and I was very disappointed in that of all the people in the world that would be part of a trash deal would be [Queen] Latifah. And I wrote about it. And thats what sparked Industry Shakedown. I just started pulling out all the bad people in my life and writing about them in that record. It was more about energy, and that was that transition. When I get upset, it reflects in my music. When Im in a good mood, happy mood, it reflects in my music. Its a sign of a true artist.
DX: These two discs can teach the younger generation so much about 1993 and 1994s mentality. On Meet Some Skins, you say, I dont want to hustle till the day that I die, I just want enough to keep me fly. It might seem like a simple line to a lot of people, but that sentiment isnt heard too often in 2008. Would Hip Hop be a better place if todays flagship rappers had that mentality instead of more, more, more?
Freddie Foxxx: Yeah. Listen dog, to think about where we at now lets say for instance when you listen to a rap record now, everybodys got to be the boss, the don, the king, the mack, the hustler. A lot of that stuff, at some point, becomes so overwhelming to a lack of reality. [Laughs] My mentality as an emcee was, Yo, were doing this to make money, but thats a blue-collar mentality. Im comfortable just taking care of the bills, the family and keepin everybody good. I dont want to be considered a hustler till the day that I die. The fact that you may have to, because things dont go your way is a whole nother story, but thats where Im at. In my mindset, when I did that album in 94, thats why I didnt change none of the lyrics. I didnt put rims on the record cause I didnt want to ruin its value. Thats the truest statement I ever made. When people were asking for Crazy Like A Foxxx, I said, If I go back in and rhyme now, on those beats from 94, the album will be worth nothing to no one in 10 years or right now. I had to let this album be what it is. Those words still stand today in my heart and in my mind. If you listen to songs like Cant Break Away, Im telling you the story of my life and how I feel and all that and how I went through certain situations, and what my mindset was as I was going through those situations.
DX: You and Chuck D have such different approaches at getting a similar message across. Tell me what it was like making Step together, in terms of song-making and what that meant to you?
Freddie Foxxx: When I called on Chuck, it was amazing. The respect that people have for me has always been a little bit of a shock. I dont see myself like everybody else sees me. When I made the phone call to Chuck to come do the record, that was an era that we werent doing email songs together. He came into the studio, we talked. He said, Foxxx, Im on the Skinheads or Ku Klux Klan or somebodys hit list. He found out that day that he was on their Top 10 assassination list. I said, Oh word? Thats whats up. So I made a phone call, and I put some of my goons outside and I had goons in 94. I had guys that were rollers in 94 that had put in work. I said, Make sure he gets to his car safe, make sure he pulls off safe. He came in, and he wasnt even scared. He was like, Whatever.
Even when 2Pac came to the studio, dog, there was guns everywhere. This was a hardcore situation. This was the same studio that The Fat Boys got robbed in. I was always aware of the fact that anybody could knock on the door, and you think youve got somebody outside comin to your session, when the door opens, they runnin in with guns and robbin people for whatever they got. So I wasnt sittin in the studio without being armed at that point. So when Chuck came through, it was an amazing, amazing experience to watch him, as Chuck D, in my session, in my booth, that I rented for that month, doin what Chuck D do. I was a fan. I was happy about that.
DX: Amen is such a powerful record to be an outro. I was watching Training Day recently, where Denzels character says, Sometimes it takes a wolf to protect the sheep. Amen shows what youre about as a human being, but in Hip Hop music, do you think youre that wolf?
Freddie Foxxx: Well, you know what? The thing isspiritually, as a youngster, I always searched for whats really who I am. My mother, we went to a Baptist church. As I got older and ventured out into the world on my own, I started dabbling into The Five Percent Nation, and then I realized that theres more beyond that, which is Islam, and then thereswhen I went to Japan, I had a book on Buddha that I loved and I still to this day have in my library. Always, as a young black man, you start searchin for your spirituality. I try to carry my spirituality through everything, including war. Because there is a time where we need to walk away and pray on things we want to speak on before we say it. We dont know who were praying to. Theres a concept of God that we dont know, but we believe in because someone taught it to us. So I have to rely on the fact that Im a human being, I love Hip Hop, I love being an artist and I protect the music and the culture by saying things that I think have a balance to them a spiritual balance and a realistic balance.
One dude asked me a question, he said, Do you enjoy violence? I laughed at him. I said, You really want me to answer that question? I dont know if he was nervous or just being an idiot, but Im like, My man, theres necessary violence and theres unnecessary violence. Everybody knows that. Even in the times of the Prophet Muhammad, there was war. Everything cant be peaceful. This world would be a wreck if everybody was peaceful. The cops beat the shit out of a dude I know just the other day. Theres violence on every level. My thing is, you asked me the question about Sometimes it takes a wolf to protect the sheep, who else better to protect the meek or the sheep than the person thats a fighter? KRS-One [click to read] and I are doing the Stop The Violence project. I told him recently, "You know who you want to hear say 'Stop the violence?' Violent people. Cause that means you made an effect on people." People like Talib Kweli [click to read] and Common [click to read] and all them, to me and my realistic statement, nobody cares if they say, Stop the violence. Because theyre not violent people. But you want gorillas and goons and wolves to say, Okay, listen. Im laying down my gun. But dont get it twisted, if you get sideways, you can catch it.
DX: You released a few twelve-inch singles on D.I.T.C. Records. However, back in 93, you were known to produce your own records or work with Eric B. What made you look at this collective from the Bronx to go and get that new sound with Showbiz, Lord Finesse and Buckwild?
Freddie Foxxx: Yo, in 94, when I was on Flavor Unit, I was trying to find a sound. I was looking for that dark, underground sound. That was the sound that I was really into. That was the mindset that I was into. Me producing my own music wasnt sounding dark enough for me. I was going to these underground battles in these clubs like this was the development of underground Hip Hop, me meeting [D.I.T.C.]. Before that, I was going to shows and to me, there was no underground market. There was just a regular Hip Hop Market. Those 90s emcees developed that underground market.
Showbiz and his whole D.I.T.C. crew was an intricate part of that sound. I was in the studio; there was a guy by the name of B.O. who, when I walked into Powerplay [Studios], they had a session in there. Showbiz was there. I had met Showbiz in the club; he had this hot leather jacket on. I said, Yo, thats that kid Showbiz who had that [Showbiz & A.G.] record Soul Clap. Word! Thats hot! I like his style. He was a guy who did it on his own thats what the word was in the street. So I wanted to talk to him, cause his brainpower was something that I was interested in. Then, when I heard his tracks, and he brought this group of producers with him that worked on my shit and Big Ls sitting in my session everyday. We [were] arguing back and forth, and who knew? He never said one line! Whoever knew that that little kid that sat in on my session was Big L?
Whats so funny is, Flavor Unit turned down that version cause they said it was too dark. I was like, Yo, thats the sound Im lookin for! I love that album. That whole [KRS-One's] Sound of Da Police and [Big L's] Da Graveyard beat was on my stuff first. These are beats that I picked. When Flavor Unit turned em down, I said, Okay, no problem. Im just gonna do an album myself. The funny thing is, I paid for all of those D.I.T.C. beats. They got paid for all of those beats, they sent in invoices, everybody got paid. And they resold em. I never filed no suits or none of that. [Flavor Unit] didnt use em, whatever. Technically, they were all my tracks.
DX: You mention producing. You downplay your production a ton, but with some of the credits, how do you want to be remembered as a producer?
Freddie Foxxx: As somebody who had to figure it out. How could you be around [DJ Premier] and not try to absorb some knowledge? In no way am I a Premier. How could you be around a Pete Rock [click to read]? An Alchemist [click to read]? A Clark Kent? A DJ Scratch? A Kev Brown? A Oddisee [click to read]? A Jazzy Jeff? Ive spent time with some of the greatest deejays and producers and its always a constant learning process. I would love to be remembered as a guy who paid attention to all of the guys who laid out something for me to pay attention to.
Im friends with a lot of legendary producers. Before them, I learned from guys like Herby Luv Bug [Azor] they were lending me their samplers. Herbys brother, one of his producers, he lent me his MPC 60, and thats how I made my first amount of money to buy my own. I made a beat with Herbie Luv Bugs MPC, and I wrote Salt-N-Pepas rhymes. It was a thing where I had to earn money. The first $4,000 or $5,000 I earned, I bought my own MPC and started from there. So I just paid attention. If people learn to pay attention to certain things, a lot of the extra stuff thats negative wouldnt develop. I dont want to be the man, I just want people to recognize me for my talent and what I do, and my contribution to Hip Hop was that I keep spice in the game, all the time.
DX: As I listen to Man Destroys Man, which exposes the nuances of street interactions, Im curious to know your thoughts, as a true New Yorker, on how those exchanges have changed since 94
Freddie Foxxx: I see a lot of things now, that back in the days, all this huggin and kissin on each other these guys be doin, a lot of that, when I came up, wasnt really a good look. People werent as touch-friendly back in the days. You had fly handshakes, they still got that. But theres a lot of dudes now that are comfortable doing certain things that back in the days, wasnt tolerated by my generation and my era of man. I came up around a lot of strong male figures in my neighborhood hardcore dudes, dudes that worked on garbage trucks, blue-collar, brick-bustin, concrete-layers and all those type of dudes. Those are my male images, in my family and in my neighborhood. Even women said, You have to be this type of man. This is the type of man women like.
When I wrote Man Destroys Man, that was more about a lot of people might think thats about homosexuality, but thats not the focus of the song. The song is [about how] I refuse to be chumped or disrespected by anybody. I dont care how big you are or any of that. The record was more about me not accepting the fact that a mans gonna take my manhood, chump me or try to run up on me.
Thats another thing. In the penitentiary, when I used to go visit my boys. One time in Sing Sing, I see a dude come to the stage with a date. Im saying, Dude, how the fuck you got a date? [Laughs] The whole jail started laughin. I kept it raw with him, and they appreciated that. I wasnt being anti-gay, I was just laughing. Some songs, like that one, people can relate, cause some guys just aint havin it. The object or the concept of weakness amongst men can cause your demise in a situation like that. Thats what I was saying in the song. When I say, I never forget to save the razor from my morning shave, thats because thats what it is. [Laughs]