Underground Report (Blaq Poet & Busdriver)
As New Yorks Blaq Poet readies for his Blaqprint release, HipHopDX catches up with the battle rapper from Queensbridge whose dark side and honest delivery drew support from none other than DJ Premier (who executive produced Blaqprint). A veteran of the culture and a warrior in The Bronx/Queens battle of the '80s, it is no surprise that Blaq Poet regularly enlists none other than the veterans of rhyme (including Marley Marl, Freddie Foxxx, KRS-One) in his choice of collaborations, which is elaborate in his previous work. In the Blaqprint, Poet paints a picture of his story, which he asserts is a similar tale of many young men growing up in the projects. DX probes further with Blaq, as the veteran offers advice to the youngsters, explains his love for boom-bap, and vindicates why he calls them bitch.
HipHopDx: Blaqprints content illustrates hopelessness and negativity. Is that a fair description?
Blaq Poet: No. Blaqprint isstreets. Hip Hop with street reality. All mixed in. Everything is not "shoot-em-up, bang-bang, kill everybody." Its not all about the drugs. Its all about hood tales. And bragging a lot on a lot of songs all of that thats part of Hip Hop; telling people Im the best. But its mostly hood tales and things that go around in the hood, every hood around America. And if it sounds like Im trying to be negative or trying to stay negative, if youre a real dude and you from the streets, you gonna know what Im talking about, you gonna appreciate it. If youre not, youre not gonna get it.
DX: You refer to women as bitches often enough in the album. Why is that?
Blaq Poet: I mean you got ladies and you got bitches. You got niggas and you got homeboys. Its the same thing. [Laughs] If a girl acts like a bitch then shes gonna be a bitch in my eyes. And Im not being disrespectful, some girls want you to know, Yeah, Im a real bitch. Dont fuck with me cause Im a real bitch. [Laughs]. Im talking to the bitches when I say bitch. And when Im talking to the ladies, I let them know Im talking to the ladies.
DX: In comparison, do you refer to the ladies as much as you refer to the bitches in your album?
Blaq Poet: Nah, cause I havent gotten to that point yet. Im still referring to what they show me they are. Theres still a lot of bitches in the world.
DX: I think youre hanging around with the wrong crowd.
Blaq Poet: [Laughs].
DX: DJ Premier executive produced the album. Your involvement with him goes back to the Y2K album, with Screwball. What is it about Preem that makes you want to be a part of what he does?
Blaq Poet: He makes the beats that makes me want to rhyme. He has the funkiest beats I think in the game right now and he makes me want to rap. The beats that he makes, the hardcore beats, you never know what hes gonna come up with but you believe its gonna be creative, its gonna be gritty.
DX: What do you think is about Blaq Poet that makes Preemo want to be a part of what he does?
Blaq Poet: Preemo got a dark side like anybody. I think I bring out his dark side. [Laughs] He likes the hardcore and he knows I come through with that hardcore, no doubt.
DX: What is it about boom-bap that makes you a continuous believer?
Blaq Poet: Its the boom-bap, boom-boom-boom bap. [Singing] Its the old school feel of the boom and the bap. You can even hear it in the beats that the new guys are making. They got the boom bap in their beats, every beat has the boom bap in itself. Its all about the head nodding and the boom bap that makes you want to just start shaking your head and start coming up with lyrics and rhymes.
DX: Why do you want to preserve that?
Blaq Poet: Thats the era I come from. Thats the best years in Hip Hop. I really want the young good dudes to hear and see how we was doing it so they can improve on it, make it better, make it iller. We want them to build off it
DX: Youve done collaborations with a lot of OGs like KRS-One, Marley Mar, Freddie Foxxx. Judging from that, is it fair to say that youre attempting to conserve an art form prevalent in the '90s?
Blaq Poet: If Im doing it, Im doing it not knowing Im doing it. Im doing it just because I love it, thats what I love. And I want people to continue to go on with that. but I also want people to get creative too. Dont just stop at the boom bap, expand on the boom bap.
DX: What do you mean by expand?
Blaq Poet: Like Kanye [West], he has boom bap in his beats and all that but he also gets creative. He might sample something a little different just different forms of sampling and different ways of making beats. Its all boom bap, but I just want people to make the new boom bap, call it the new bap. [Laughs] I dont want people to get stuck in one era; I want that era that get spread and expanded and people just take it to where its never been before.
DX: What would the new bap be composed of?
Blaq Poet: The youngsters. The youngsters doing what we did and doing what we did and building off of it. I cant even explain it; it just has to be done. It would be the hardcore, the hard base; then live instruments mixed with sampling. Keep me interested, Im a fan of this too. I love listening to new stuff and checking out the new dudes and all that. I just want them to keep me interested.
DX: Any new dudes youre checking for?
Blaq Poet: I like Cory Gunz [click to read]. Thats my youngsta from New York. Cory Gunz is gonna have them wylin'. Aint too many, man. [Laughs]
DX: You stated that availability of Internet and technology increased peoples desires to pursue Rap. Why is Hip Hop and Rap so appealing?
Blaq Poet: Its an outlet to just let loose. Everybody got things on their mind, stresses. Even if you want to have a party, a good time, then you can just let loose, Hip Hop is the best way to let your hair down. [Laughs]
DX: Why is it appealing for a career choice?
Blaq Poet: Its like the NBA these days and professional sports its a multimillion dollar game.
DX: How is it affected by the recession?
Blaq Poet: People are always gonna want to hear good music and always wanna hear their best artist and eat good food. So I dont think the recession really bothers music or food. [Laughs] People are always wanna eat good and people are always gonna wanna hear good music.
DX: What is the essence of Hip Hop?
Blaq Poet: Graffiti, turntables, deejaying. Beating on the wall. [Laughs] You might have your homie beat on the wall while you spit some rhymes. You feel it in your bones. Its not a money thing, its not a being cool thing, its something you feel.
DX: The changes we see today reflected in mainstream Hip Hop can we call it evolution?
Blaq Poet: No doubt.
Blaq Poet: Everything evolves. Hip Hop is no different than anything else. Its gonna evolve and come back to the same way it was before and evolve from there. So its gonna stay evolving and getting different and staying current at the same time. Hip Hop is crazy.
DX: What keeps you rhyming?
Blaq Poet: I keep going cause I grew up with music. When I hear a beat that makes me want to rap, Im gonna always want to rap to it. It just gets me open. its something in my blood; when I hear it, I want to rhyme, I want to rap, I want to say whats on my mind and express whats on my mind.
DX: Anything youd like to add?
Blaq Poet: Ive been doing this for years, years and years. And Im gonna keep doing it until the wheels fall off of it. And for the O.G.s out there, if yall are gonna make the joints, then make the songs that youngsters want to hear or youre gonna die off in the "Jurassic Rap Park." Or youre gonna stay current and pop off like I plan to do. And to the youngsters, pay attention to O.G.s cause the O.G.s are gonna break it down for you the right way to follow. If your Hip Hop starts at Lil Wayne, you gotta do some history and find out whats going on. I talk to a lot of good dudes in Europe and a lot of dudes in America and the average European 17 year-old knows more about Hip Hop than the 20 year-old American kid. [Laughs] Whats going on here? Theres a problem.
DX: Good advice.
Blaq Poet: Thanks a lot. And I will try to clean it up
As we move over to the west coast, we come across a not-your-average rapper in every sense of the phrase. He goes by Busdriver and his style cannot be described (or confined) in a set of particular explanations encompassing meticulous notions of Hip Hop. He can rap fast enough to lose himself in his rhymes, and at times, enlist fast-paced sounds of electric melodies which lead to particular songs sounding like they are products of a never-before heard Hip Hop musical. His upcoming album, Jhelli Beam, illustrates just that while also painting a picture of yet another artist who chooses to transgress stereotypes, boundaries and expectations. DX sat down with Busdriver to discuss diversification of L.A.s Hip Hop scene, the eroding of the underground and the silly title for a rap album.
HipHopDX: Whats a Jhelli Beam?
Busdriver: Its a silly title for a rap album.
DX: What does it mean?
Busdriver: It doesnt mean anything. I feel like there are really poor names that keep my life floating or keep certain facets of my life above ground and it kind of hinted towards that. But the main reason, its a silly title and I spelled Jhelli Beam like a jhery curl, I was my attempting to be funny.
DX: You state in the introduction to the album that conscious Rap failed us. Elaborate?
Busdriver: Im partially being facetious; Im being a baby. Sometimes I feel that champions of consciousness moved on to more pressing matters like career advancement or attempts at garnering street cred, and some of the high minded ideals the whole civil rights movement message that you get from a lot of the key conscious rap guys, it kind of rings false, it comes across as sloganeering. And now we kind of reached a point where people involved with conscious rap have moved on. Not everybody of course, but a lot of people have moved on to a post-Kanye era. But thats really not true, I was being a baby. I mean I wasnt really a fan of the message in conscious Rap anyway; maybe in the early '90s I was, but it became kind of outmoded. Its just me showing the eternal pessimist.
DX: What rappers are you referring to?
Busdriver: Whatever. Common [click to read], [Talib] Kweli [click to read]; anybody like that. But its not really true. Its not wrong; its the right choicewhatever people are doing. But honestly, I dont even know what people are doing, I dont even listen to what people are doing. So Im kind of assuming things. Im showing traces of mad-rapper haterism. [Laughs]
DX: Is it safe to label Jhelli Beam a Hip Hop musical?
Busdriver: I wish it was true. Jhelli Beam musical starring Hugh Jackman. That would be great. Its not a musical
DX: I dont think that was your intent. But there are excerpts of it reminiscent of a musical but a Hip Hop version.
Busdriver: I would love that.
DX: Why arent you concerned that your lyrics are overshadowed by your rapid delivery at times?
Busdriver: I never had too many people take what I say seriously. So its me kind of being hell bent on out rapping my own self. Im not too worried about my rapping overshadowing my lyrics; they complement each other and are all conducive to the experience of listening to one of my songs. I have a variety of approachesI mean if I was more studio-raised, I would probably be there would probably be an emphasis on the lyrics or something, but fortunately my approach cultivated over hours and hours of playing live, open mics. So I have a disposition to attempt to impressI internalize those techniques and stick with them. If I was smart, Id pace myself and make more grand stance, a little bit more, but
DX: What was your goal for this album?
Busdriver: I wanted to unlearn some of my concerns in attempt to make a marketable or half-heartedly successful album, and in so doing, I wanted to get back to not my roots but just not be so self-conscious and not try to please so many pockets of people cause I feel like I did that with RoadKillOvercoat and I think we did a decent job but I didnt want to do the same thing. I wanted to get in the mind-set that I was in early 2000 with so many records like Temporary Forever and stuff and I wanted to go for it and act like I was fresh. I was just trying to re-discover my attack and a way to re-discover my passion I thought I had six years ago. And I did. I think it worked as far as Im concerned. I mainly needed to do that to prove that Im not getting old. [Laughs] To prove to myself that Im not dying.
DX: I want to touch upon L.A.s Hip Hop scene. Its been largely diversified in respect to both fans that support the music as well as the variety of styles incorporated within it. What is the explanation for that diversification?
Busdriver: Its a large sprawling mass of city so you have many different pockets of people who cultivate their sound in different eras. Another thing is that convention of L.A. became something people involved in Rap music, who adamantly fought against the conventions of L.A. Rap, which became gangster Rap. So you have many pockets of people trying to cultivate this other than or honestly doing whats other than. You have different types of people who are not, to take on the subscribed L.A. style so L.A. has a history of that. And I think theres more freedom, theres less pressure to abide by certain things. I feel like in New York if you dont hold dear a certain cluster of conventions, you kind of feel on the outside and in L.A., you can feel that way too but you can be on the outside by yourself and be fairly comfortable with everything.
But honestly I think with L.A., a lot of the Hip Hop stuff has taken a turn for the worse. The only aspect of it is that all the beat guys in LA have really stepped up and the whole movement in production is on the verge of having a real impact. And a lot of that stuff is heavily Jay-Z-influenced [click to read], but its turned into something else, and its bleed into the electronic music world so I think thats really interesting.
DX: How has that affected your place in music?
Busdriver: Well I dont feel tattered to the Rap world, I dont. And its not because I think my music is so good that its other than, I just dont feel tattered to it. I feel more an allegiance with young people trying to do shit rather than just guys rapping and tapping on a beat. I think theres an ethic at the base of what Ive grown up doing and what I like that speaks louder than the genre than Im supposed to be catering to or supposed to be perpetuating. And I think thats really good because it leaves me open to befriend other people who are really good and who cater to my sensibility of more than your average rap guy. I mainly work with people who do electronic music and people who dab in other genres. I think because Im fortunate enough to actually open to the idea - and I dont see it a stretch or a leap or something otherI think most rap guys are keen to point out when theyre doing that other shit and I dont have a sense of that. I dont see it as being so out of balance; so there arent as many boundaries and Im happy to be doing what Im doing. And I like to meet people who like doing what they do.
DX: If there is no underground, why do we still refer to it as such? This column is named the Underground Report after all
Busdriver: I think theres less of a form for it now. I think in rap when the independent scene has really kicked off, it kind of negated the underground scene. What I mean by underground, I mean we dont have records, people who are selling CD-Rs/mixtapes, people who are rapping in open mics or rapping in really tiny clubs, without deals and publicists and national profilesI just think theres less need for that now because you have so many groups who nationally get that push, so many groups who are better or mirror local guys. I mainly mean when theres no underground, theres no local.