Buckshot: Survival Of The Fittest

posted September 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM CDT | 7 comments

Maintaining a lasting presence in the Hip-Hop game is a task of Herculean proportions. Record labels continue to emphasize fly-by-night singles from third-rate artists and blogs give up-and-coming rappers the chance to break into the game without paying their dues. It seems as if the time-honored title of emcee has been transformed into nothing more than a Cracker Jack prize.

Yet some still remember when being a legitimate emcee was something earned through years of strife and struggle. And this September 15, legendary lyricists KRS-One and Buckshot intend to remind Hip-Hop heads exactly what it took to become a high-caliber Hip Hop artist with their album Survival Skills. Buckshot recently spoke with HipHopDX about the project and how the one can survive in such a treacherous industry.

HipHopDX: Youve got Survival Skills coming out on September 15. What was your mentality while recording this project?
[That] were going to war. When it comes time to doing something that Im faced with pressure or discomfort, I always remember and say to myself that, "Im a general in a boot-camp, and I cant fail that position as a general no matter what I may personally feel." What I personally feel has nothing to do with my position as a general, so as a general, even though KRS-One [click to read] is the man [and] I respect him, and hes a legend and Im a student of KRS-One, Ive got to get in there and bring back that trophy. Ive got to get in there and assassinate that mic. Ive got to destroy that bunker. I have to be a general at the end of the day.

DX: Youve worked with KRS-One a couple of times before. One thing right off the top of my head, the 5 Boroughs back in 1999. Why record Survival Skills now? Is this album a reflection or statement of where Hip Hop is nowadays?
Yeah it is. Of course it is, and its a creative version of allowing that. Yes it is...1000% yes it is [a reflection of present day Hip Hop] because we couldve been putting the album out, but we didnt. It wasnt time. We didnt think about it; we only knew that we were going to rock shows together and we only knew that we were going to do certain things together, but we never said that we were going to do a wholealbum together because it just wasnt in the air.

DX: And with this album, what kind of a statement are you making? I know with the single Robot, you and Kris kind of cleared up a lot issues about the use of Auto-Tune.
It is, and how about this: we are moving so fast with technology that even that [Robot] campaign is over if you peep it. Even the Robot campaign is over. Its like that campaign is done. We dont need to talk about it. It seems like it just got here, but that [campaign] is over because everybody is already starting to saturate the concept of "Dont become a robot" or "Down with Auto-Tune" or "Down with people trying to follow the same trend," and all that. Even thats already kind of settled in. But the album represents me and KRS-One telling people what it takes now to survive. You need to have skills. What does it take to survive in the business where whole record companies are swallowed up everybodys just swallowed[but] Buckshot and KRS-One are somehow, someway, still here.

DX: And with that, what are those skills that you feel an artist needs to survive and continue to resonate with an audience as you and KRS-One do?
Respectthats the number one main jewel. Respect. Youve got to have the patience, the discipline and the obedience, and thats one of the jewels that I would tell people, and then respect, because I respect KRS-One to the next level. I respect those who came before me and put it down to the next level, and thats why I think that my industry [with Duck Down Records] is the way it is, so I can constantly say, in the words of Warren Buffett and certain other people, "If you [constantly] surround yourself by those that are greater than you, then you have no choice but to become great." Its not even like you have a choice. The only time you have choice is when you stop hanging with them.

DX: And going off on that, is that part of the appeal of working with KRS-One?
Yeah, just being able to justits more of a thing like, I know when Im around him, Ive got to be at my best because hes somebody like me who can peep somebody when theyre not at their best, so its like, just be at your best. Subconsciously, hes doing the same thingso were both feeding off of each other because we both respect each other. Its not like Kris is like, "Nah, thats Buckshot, hes the little homie, he knows how it is." He respects Buckshots stage shows and the same thing goes with Kris [for me]. So I think, like I said, keeping an open mind and having respect for the people who have [come from the past], because thats what makes classics. Thats what makes a legend. A legend is somebody who defines a time and a year.

DX: Definitely. And kind of with that and what you were saying before about how a song will kind of burst one day and then the next day the campaign for it is over, do you feel this is going to change the way people are look at the music industry and the way fans and artists and even labels interact with one another?
Yeah, yeah. I constantly keep saying to everybody, "If you dont know what to do, youll be apart of seeing it being done." You know? If you dont know what to do, youll be apart of it being done. Thats simple and plain. So that means, if you dont do something, itll be done for you. [Laughs] So yes, Hip-Hop [has] changed slightly because of out tolerance to stuff like that and our tolerance levels, and all of that affects business, it affects everybody. But Ill tell you: step it up. That means, you know what? Make another single. Make another song. Get in there and make something fire. Come on and keep it going. Were not in the 80s or 90s where only one record would last for a whole year. Step it up.

DX: And at the same time with that idea, though, it kind of seems like the music is being cheapened, not necessarily to make
It happens. What youre talking about here is the Bon-Ton effect. Now that Bon*Ton or Wise Potato Chips wants to put out more potato chips, theyve got to skin the potatoes; theyve cut down on the greasebecause theyve got to make more. So whenever you [increase] quantity, you always exchange [that] quantity for quality. Its very, very hard to get those two to be together. You understand what Im trying to tell you? So like I said, when it comes to quality, real Hip Hop is still out there. Youve got to go get it, though. It aint going to fall in your hands like it did back in the day. You have to go get it.

DX: And thats actually one of the things that I really love about Duck Down Recordsbecause you guys are always maintaining a presence out in the world, in the industry and on all of these blogs, but at the same time, youre not sacrificing the quality of the music in the slightest degree.
Word up. Word up, and I just thank the Gods above for the fact that they just give us the energy to keep doing that. We have a site called MyDuckDown.com where kids can go, people can go, adults and everybody can go to this site and put up their music, put up their videos and put up their content so that we can become part of this network without feeling like, you knowI created that system so they can feel comfortable.

DX: It feels like with the advent of the blogs and how theyve been used for music, it feels necessary for an artist now to have some sort of interaction with fans.
Of course. I mean, its just like I said, interactivity [with an artist] is a way for a fan to know and feel that they are apart of what they support. Often, a lot of times, fans never used to know that they were apart of what they [supported]. Thats why when you go to a spot, the people would be yelling and going crazy, and the fans would be like, "Can I touch this person? Can I talk to this person?" And nowadays, you can actually do that. Nowadays, you can actually be involved in that and you can actually do that. I think thats a great thing. I think, again, I keep telling people, a lion is the king of the jungle, and you can either feed the lion or you can be eaten by the lion. Thats up to you. Thats your choice. I choose to feed the lion as opposed to being food for the lion.

DX: And in discussing how the industry has changed, nowadays, I guess in the more mainstream model, it feels like the game is built for artists to be lasting.
A certain amount of time? What do you mean?

DX: It doesnt feel like the mainstream, commercial industry right nowis built for artists to have that lasting effect like the artists in the 90s and 80s, where theyve been able to last because the industrys been so built around continuing their legacy and creating their legacy. Nowadays, it feels like when someone signs to a label, it feels like, "Oh, Ive got to have a single and make sure I have a single every year," and then usually, it doesnt ever work out like that.
That is true. I dont know the response to that because what youre saying is true. Like I said, it almost becomes like, how do you respond to that knowing thatthere really is no response to that because you dropped a jewel there and explained how [in] the music industry, the time span has been cut off because peoples attention span is really short. And you know what, the corporations never were down with us. They only got down with us in the 90s. Remember, Hip Hop started in the 70s, and then in the 80s, it became a creation. In the 70s, it was an idea; in the 80s, it became a reality to the world. But in the 90s, it became a reality to the corporate companies. Corporate America only grasped a hold of Hip-Hop during the 90s, and then after the 1990, corporate America didnt know what the fuck to do. They didnt know a thing about it. That same year corporate America really started to take over Hip Hop, Buckshot, Master P and a few other people came in with that same impact of saying, "No, yall are not going to do this. Yall are not going to take over Hip Hop so much. Were going to create our own labels and show you how its done." And they couldnt compete with us as independent labels, because they may have the money, but they dont have the mind. The money cant do nothing for you without the mind.

DX: Its like theres a difference between being apart of the music industry and being so tied up in the music like yourself and knowing exactly what the people want and giving them that, versus appealing to Hip Hop, like all of those McDonalds commercials and what-not.
Yo, McDonalds [is] so hilarious. I love embarrassing [they are]. I love how they be embarrassing themselves, and they dont care because theyre not embarrassing themselves, theyre embarrassing the actors who say, "I take money to do this." There are actors that say [theyll] take money to say, "Oh yeah? You aint going to grab my McDonalds burger." You know, "Oh yeah? [Sample] this!" Ziggy-ziggy-ziggy, and its so embarrassing.

DX: Thats actually the exact commercial I was thinking of.
Yo, I hate that commercial. I hate it. I hate it so bad, I dont knowI think a lot of people hated it because its so embarrassing. Its such a buttermilk-version of Hip Hop.

DX: Yeah, I know. Its disgustingwell thats all the questions that I had for your today-
Can I add something?

DX: Yeah yeah, go ahead.
Were living in the world [and] we are the John Connors [from the Terminator films]. We are John Connor. John Connor represents us as a people, and thats what that movie was trying to tell you, that we [are] John Connor. John Connor was the person that built the terminator, and he had to be the same person to come back and destroy it. Well thats we are: were building the Internet, were building the terminator, and eventually, were going to have to come back and destroy it, so just recognize that.

DX: Yes, definitely. And so you feel like with this album you kind of have to destroy what the model of Hip Hop id now, but also rebuild it anew?
I think so. I hope so. I really hope sobefore, we used to lack something. We had the right music, but we didnt have the business. Well, they messed up when they linked up KRS-One and Buckshot, because Buckshot is the business. Yo, I eat, crap and breathe business. So when you put that mind frame together with a creative mind frame like KRS-One, youve got a ticking time bomb. Lets see if they stop us now.

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