Showbiz & A.G. Discuss "Runaway Slave" 20 Years Later, D.I.T.C. Music-Making Bond
Exclusive: Showbiz & A.G. recall making their classic full-length debut 20 years ago. They also explain why they can make music forever and Big L's role within D.I.T.C.
20 years is a long time for any two people to continuously make music and that certain positive vibe is always a requirement for maintaining success. In the case of Showbiz & A.G., one could see the cohesiveness of their mindset through only talking with the duo for a short time.
During an interview with Show & A, it was on display first hand. Due to technical difficulties, Showbiz didn’t join the interview until about 15 minutes into it so instead of holding off until he hopped in, we talked with A.G. alone for a while. Long story short, after Show joined he started to mention the same details, processes and reasons behind how they do what they do and it became apparent – these two were one mind.
“It’s just dope to hear him talk and say the same answers I said but with different words,” A.G. said after listening to the responses Showbiz made to the same questions he was unable to hear earlier. Listening to both of them speak on the progression of their careers wasn’t just interesting, it makes one realize what it takes for a duo to sustain success over a long period of time in a genre of ever-changing sounds, trends and exploits.
On the 20th anniversary year of not only a classic LP, but one that would launch the careers of two dedicated Hip Hop artists, HipHopDX got a rare opportunity to speak with both Showbiz & A.G. about Runaway Slave, their forthcoming Mugshot Music, and how a collaborative spirit has kept their duo strong today as well as the rest of one of the most cult-followed Hip Hop collectives of all time, D.I.T.C.
HipHopDX: You just dropped the Pre-Loaded mixtape. What was the mindset and goal you wanted to accomplish for this one?
A.G.: On the Pre-Loaded [mixtape], it was just trying to make some music from my heart. We did it more for the love of it more than anything, that’s why it’s free. And we wanted people to hear what we had since they haven’t heard Show & A.G. on a full-length project in so long. Instead of actually dividing out in our personal goals, we can let you know what we’re doing so you don’t have to assume or guess what type of music or what type of flavor that we’re coming with. Like I said, it’s very all from the heart and the struggle of what we go through in our everyday lives is very reflective in the music and that’s who we are, that’s why for a long time we haven’t made music together 'cause our music isn’t fabricated, it’s truly pure, from the heart and so we was ready to do that and put out new music.
Showbiz: We don’t think about what we wanna do along those lines when we record, everything is organic. If I hear a beat or I give A.G. a beat I just tell him, “Do what you do, whatever the beat tells you to do to it, that’s what you do.” What we do is, we get a collection of the ones that we feel fit or we like the most or whatever it is to really put together an album and that’s what we do. We don’t think about [it in the form of] "Well we gonna touch this subject or we gonna do that," it has to be organic when it comes to us.
DX: What kind of reaction have you guys been receiving from it?
A.G.: It’s amazing so far. We got over 40,000 downloads in three days. The comments on Twitter, on Facebook and the comments on the sites that have it available for download are very very positive. It’s something people still want and haven’t been getting and I think personally, not to sound egotistical, but I think it’s something that only a few people can do and we’re one of those few people.
Showbiz & A.G. Reflect On The State Of New York Hip Hop
DX: It was definitely a New York mixtape/project. Seems like a lot of the newer acts from New York are getting away from that style but I wouldn’t expect anything other than a New York album from Show & A. What do you think about this kind of shift in style though?
Showbiz: It’s a lot of areas in Hip Hop. All music, all society in general is the cause of this thing occurring like it is with young guys doing that 'cause we came up from an era that New York really ran Hip Hop so since New York ran Hip Hop, we felt good about doing what New York do. We were proud of it. A lot of guys are really growing up, like younger guys who are like 18 now or even 22, they didn’t grow up in that era so he grew up with Lil Wayne and all them as the front-men of Hip Hop, you know what I’m saying? So they may not feel as proud as we did cause we had [Big Daddy] Kane and Rakim so we was cut from the cloth of the real, the guys who started Hip Hop, Jazzy Jay and [Grandmaster] Flash and so on. We proud and we still proud to this day cause we experienced this in our life. For someone who grew up in a video era and an era where the corporations took over Hip Hop, remember, when we was in Hip Hop, it wasn’t taken over completely by the corporations. They made money off it, but they didn’t control them, they didn’t care to control what came out of the speakers or what came out of the radio 'cause as the years went on, Hip Hop has influenced the whole planet but prior to that in our time, it was visible in most places, but it wasn’t the main thing, this is the main thing in music right now, it’s Hip Hop. These young guys right here grow up and they see the stars and the stars are not from New York outside of the guys that came from our era. The last New York big star was really 50 Cent. They see everybody else trying to do the type of music that they feel is dope because they don’t really know or have no sense of what came before them and that’s part of is also. So there’s a whole bunch of areas that contribute to younger guys wanting to do music outside of New York because they don’t understand the whole style of what New York is about, they weren’t around to witness New York running Hip Hop.
A.G.: I think they’re looking for a more universally accepted sound and I don’t think that is what Hip Hop is about.
DX: Do you think that sound is less marketable?
A.G.: Well, to each his own first and foremost. This is music and I know a lot of individuals that make a living doing other things than music, sometimes not even lawful things so when someone is doing music off top and not in the street robbing, stealing, or selling drugs I think first and foremost that’s a plus. Anybody that’s doing something positive and constrictive musically, I commend them for that alone. But then after that I am very objective with music 'cause I grew up with it my whole life so when I hear artists that are doing something other than what they should be doing or something other than the sound that’s around them or that’s been cultivated around them, I see that that’s something for the moment, a quick fix because music is gonna keep changing so whoever you’re duplicating or emulating is just making some selling music per se. And after a while this other music gives way to a different sound, maybe it’s a Midwest sound or maybe it’s a California sound, maybe it’s something else but that same artist would have to adapt and start making that sound now too to be relevant and then another sound and then they just keep changing with the sound where if you do something from your heart, which we have done, New York has to be incorporated because it’s from our hearts. No matter what changes, that will remain the same because that’s who we are and that’s why 20 years later we can make an album that is relevant, that people accept very well and it doesn’t sound like we’re reaching, it doesn’t sound like we’re adding preservatives, it just sounds natural because we’re coming from our heart and we’re reflecting what’s coming from around us and what’s around us is a New York lifestyle and so our music has to feel that way.
Showbiz & A.G. Celebrate The 20th Anniversary Of Runaway Slave
DX: You mention 20 years of making music, it’s been 20 years since you dropped the classic, Runaway Slave. Reflecting on the anniversary, what are some of those standout moments from making that album? How did that build the Show & A we know today?
A.G.: Well since I was in the Hip Hop culture at a very young age, my brother L.B., I had to tag along with him and do everything he did, he was very much into the culture so it’s embedded in me and it’s the only thing I ever really wanted to do with all my passion and all my heart so to finally be on a major label, big money is being put behind this project, we’re in the studio everyday, this is all I do and to start making an album for the people. Before then, you just do it for yourself but to start making music for people to accept, it had a different type of energy and excitement about it and it causes you to come up with more things than you normally would because you’re not just making it for yourself so the whole process of it, to have Lord Finesse, Diamond D, Big L, all these guys, none of us are really known, you know Finesse's [and DJ Mike Smooth's Funky Technician] album had came out, Diamond’s [Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop] album had came out but Big L, Fat Joe, myself, all these other guys are not known, so to do it with a whole new energy, with proven producers, dudes that are to me like specialists and then they cultivated my rhymes, that’s what I remembered about it most, so I rhyme forever.
Being around Show cultivated, “Oh okay, this should be 16 bars.” Going through that whole process and hearing the music knowing that this is something that no one is doing, I think that represents Show & A to the max like we’re definitely in our own lane and we definitely try to go against the lane. So at that time, the early '90s, to start going against the grain and making what we wanted. We didn’t care about record sales or anything like that, but yet we were on a major label who were promoting record sales. It was a very exciting time to see Show put the album together and remix it two and three times. Like it was a totally different album from what you guys hear. He’s a perfectionist so every time we would go back to the studio a song would be changed, “Ah naw, I don’t like this, or I don’t like the drums on this, lets change the whole thing.” So to go through that whole process and get to the final result and people to deem it a classic is really something that’s embedded with us and that really probably is the reason we’re still here today 'cause once you do something like that, you can never really be deterred, like no one can tell you, “Ah, this is alright.” But no one is checking for us because no one was checking for us when we first came on so that will never deter artists like ourselves and to succeed doing something that you’re doing from your heart, it’s a little different and always enable you and give you the confidence to do different shit so that’s why when we come out 20 years later, we we’re confident in giving this away. Like y'all need to hear this 'cause after this we’re going hard, we got two/three more albums we plan on putting out, we got some more free giveaway albums. This is not just an album in 2012, it’s a new beginning. 2012 is the 20th anniversary from Runaway Slave. We just want to flood them with mass music that we’re doing now and not care about what happens after. When we started making music and the records started selling, we on the charts, the video countdowns, you become different than what you originally started and sometimes you may not have the love for the music in the same way. So this way, we’re just making the music and whatever happens after this happens.
Showbiz: Sometimes when they say if you have fun it goes by fast. We was having a nice time doing it. But I just remember it was kind of a blur to me because it happened so fast and we were having so much fun doing it. I just remember times in the studio and the people that was around us at the time but for the most part I just remember the process of trying to make records and remixing them and trying to have them fit into the album and having a nice sequence so someone can listen to it and enjoy it. So it was more about the memories of the process of us doing it and us having a fun time doing it. It was just a blur honestly with so much going on at the time, we was going real fast at that time, ya know?
DX: That’s interesting. A.G. you mention the difference between making music before you guys dropped Runaway Slave and when you got into the studio with that major label backing to make that album. Did you ever once think like, “Now we aren’t just responsible for making music for our neighborhood, we’re making it for all Hip Hop fans, maybe we have to change this up a little?”
A.G.: No. That’s one thing about Show & A.G. and if you look at the track record and I’m not saying that in a boastful manner. We never really had good relationships with a record label because of that element right there. We wanna do what we wanna do and if you don’t wanna hear or see what we’re doing, you’re not connected to the streets or to the audience like we are, trust me this will work. And then the company has experts that went through college and marketing experts and promotional department that’s telling you, “Nah we need to do this.” So we were always ones to not conform and that’s why if you look at Runaway Slave that came out in ’92 and Goodfellas came out in ’95, three years later. And that was a self-acclaim album, it was on the charts, but that period between ’95 and ’92 was, if I can recall, was more of a creative thing or what we wanted to do that they didn’t want to do or vice versa. Being that [Mugshot Music] is on Diggin’ In The Crates Records, it’s totally me and Show making all the decisions. Listen man, if I sell 40,000 records every time I come out and no one has ever heard of me and they think Show & A is not out and you don’t see no videos or nothing, that’s still $320,000 potentially every time I come out every couple months. I’ll never look at a major label again the same way or care about anything mainstream because I can say what I want, I have the freedom to do what I want, I can represent the struggle, which is what the reason I’m doing this for and I can survive and be financially stable. There’s nothing really more that we want to reach for after that after the stage of the career we’re in and where we’re at.
DX: Something I always noticed with Runaway Slave was it was a little bit of a throwback even for ’92. To me, it had that political bent, and when Gangsta Rap was starting to pick up on the East Coast at the time, you almost took it back to like ’87. I remember a line from the title track, “Kill another brother and it’s bravery / Come on, that’s one step backwards into mental slavery.” Those were some profound words especially at the time that still ring true today. What was the overall message of not only that track but the overall album?
A.G.: To be honest with you, what the message was and always has been and still is right now is knowledge yourself and love, that’s always been our message. If you have knowledge of who you are as a person, what’s expected of you in life from the creator, then you know certain things that are harming individuals with out there be being self defense or anything like that.
Showbiz: Honestly, it wasn’t like we sat down and said, “We’re gonna address these issues,” or anything, it all was organic. It wasn’t one set message, that’s what we were going through at the time and that’s what was going on in society and we just put it in our music. In certain songs you could point out messages like A had more than one way out the ghetto when he told the story of how he got locked up and he was hustling or whatever and he realized he could do it another way. So we had individual songs that touched bases on different topics that had to do with society at that moment but overall, one general message, it wasn’t nothing that we thought about.
Showbiz & A.G. Explain Big L's Involvement In D.I.T.C.
DX: “Represent” was kind of that crew track, it even was what I would consider a Big L preview before he became more well known and literally in the sense that he uses those samples from Showbiz’s beat in “The Graveyard” from Lifestylez oV Da Poor & Dangerous. How big a part was Big L to D.I.T.C. and how big a part were they into launching the career of who many consider to be the greatest of all time?
Showbiz: I don’t think we would be down with each other if we didn’t look at each other the way we do. For someone to be even on my record I would have to think highly of them and that says it all right there. We thought that way of each other so we all looked at each other in high regard as far as the talent we knew everyone possessed and basically I think it was vice versa. For someone to scream your name out and get down with your crew and make records with you, you’ve got to look at them in high regard so that’s definitely a given cause it’s not like we just put on anybody. I think we were down with the nicest guys that did it at the time.
A.G.: We definitely fed off each other. “The Graveyard” joint along with Sunkiss and Lord Finesse, ourselves and Big L, this was our crew. Joe and Diamond on the production during this album, this is who we ride with, this is who we fed off of and it was a preview of what was to come. It was something like Show said, it was organic and it came from the heart. We didn’t do it to preview anything. This was just like, we definitely got to get a track with all four of us on it because off of the music, this was what was around spittin' whatever, we’d throw a beat on it for us spittin and rhyming so that was just something that just had to happen and it wasn’t put together and it wasn’t like we’re just doing this to preview any other artist, these were just the artists that we were around at the time and this is our family and it still is.
DX: Show, you did a lot of emceeing on Runaway Slave but over years you started to scale back your mic appearances. You of course still have your hand heavy on the production side in your work with A, but was/is there a reason for your absence in emceeing as of late?
Showbiz: Yeah, there were a lot of things that’ll do that. There’s guys who will sit there and rap all day everyday and I respect them 'cause that’s what they do, I like to produce. So I think that from my standpoint is, I’d rather spend most of my time doing what I know I’m here to do instead of trying to do something that I was just doing for fun and I know guys that are just not doing it for fun but they love to do this, I’m gonna let them do what they do with that and I like to just concentrate on music so I fell back a little. I kinda fell into a... I don’t really wanna let a lot of people know my thoughts, and when you rhyme, you do express your thoughts in one way or another so I’m kind of laid back to where I don’t wanna be held accountable for things that I’ve said. [Laughs] I just stay back and stay in my lane and just do music, I’m more comfortable in that lane.
DX: When you began your Hip Hop careers did you ever think you would be doing this for more than 20 years?
Showbiz: Mmm, yeah, cause it’s a part of our life, it’s just something we live. It ain’t like we did this 'cause it’s a job or something, we be doing this if we’d get paid or not and I’ve said that in a song. I started with music since I was nine years old so it’s a part of me so I’m not really gonna stop just because, even if we wasn’t putting out music, we still gonna be doing this so that’s what we do and that’s who we are.
A.G.: I agree with that. I heard an interview one time with DMC and he was saying, “If I never got on, I’d probably be working in a post office or something but I’d still be writing rhymes.” So I feel very much the same way like that. Like Show said, even if we didn’t put out music, we would still be making music because this is the purest thing in my life, it’s the purest thing to me and it’s rewarding. You get out of it what you put into it and that form of expression is unmatched in anything. To be able to express yourself is very therapeutic whether it’s through a beat, whether it’s through a rhyme and I think even if you’re not on a mainstream level or even have your music prevail, being creative and being able to express your thoughts will help you in your life, period. So I think we will always be doing this. I felt when I first made the first album with Show that the way we connected when we first met was like this was something that was here for the long hall and it was something that we was doing as partners we were with each other every single day during the making of these albums. Runaway Slave was a real family affair, it wasn’t just like we came together and we just made this music because this record company wanted both of us and we’re going to make some money off of this, it wasn’t even like that. We spent more time with each other outside of the studio than in the studio so I did think I would be making music 20 years later and I kind of did think I would be making it with Show.
DX: How involved or connected still are you with the rest of D.I.T.C. today? I know you had O.C. on the mixtape but how often do you guys still communicate with each other?
Showbiz: We all have separate lives so it’s whenever we get time to, it’s not like I see them everyday or every week. I may see someone twice in one week and then I might not see them in two weeks 'cause you know we have lives. I might see somebody more than another in a month or whatever the case is so that’s the way it goes.
A.G.: When we made Mugshot, O.C. was in the studio damn near everyday. Like, we in the studio with O.C. [daily]. Show speaks to Finesse everyday. Musically, we may not be connecting everyday on each other’s projects and things of that nature but there’s intermingling within the group of guys that make sure, like I speak to Show everyday, two times a day, I speak to Finesse frequently, me and O.C. will text a lot, me and O.C. hit the road a lot together as rappers, as the rapping artists of the group. Diamond is living down South but him and Show, him and me, him and O communicate through text frequently so like Show said, it’s not an everyday thing, we are older in our careers and life is first but at the same time we manage to know what each other is up to and what each other’s doing and what each other’s projects is coming out and we support them.