Before artists like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Buckshot has served as a prototype for the independent artist. The Brooklyn-born emcee, along with Drew “Dru Ha” Friedman founded Duck Down Records and immediately built the label into a Hip Hop house of royalty, cutting deals with artists like B-Real, Pharoahe Monch, 9th Wonder as well as working on his own projects like Black Moon and Boot Camp Clik.
When the music industry shifted from plastic to digital, Buckshot stayed ahead of the curve, giving artists an alternative to the major label’s 360 deals, which allow the label to take a portion of any revenue earned, music related or otherwise.
As an artist, Buckshot has collaborated with some of the most venerable names in Hip Hop, from 2009’s Survival Skills, which he did with KRS-One to Chemistry (2005), The Formula (2009), and The Solution (2012) which he did with North Carolina producer, 9th Wonder. For his latest project, Backpack Travels, which will hit stores June 24, the venerable emcee enlisted Kiwi DJ/producer, P-Money, to produce the 10-track album, which also features appearances by Joey Bada$$, CJ Fly, Raz Fresco, David Dallas, Steele, T’Nah Apex and Chelsea Reject.
Though he’s only 27 years of age, P-Money has already earned several awards in his home country, New Zealand, and has laced tracks for artists like Sauce Money, Akon, Skillz, Bobby Creekwater and more.
In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, Buckshot talks about working with younger artists like P-Money and the Pro Era crew, and why today more than ever, it pays to be independent and the ideological shift on the perception of “backpack Rap.”
Buckshot Explains His Natural Chemistry With P-Money & Pro Era
HipHopDX: On Survival Skills you were working with “The Teacher,” KRS-One, who was nine years your senior. This time around you’re the teacher. Was the age difference a factor in working together in the studio?
Buckshot: I don’t think P was as conscious of [the age difference], just like I wasn’t as conscious of it with KRS. As much as you’d like to believe so or think there might be a clash ‘cause of the age difference, we’re not here forever, so take advantage of the position that you want to be in and go for it. That’s the one thing I love about Backpack Travels. It just reflects beats and rhymes. And it’s funny because to work with the younger cats from P-Money to Pro Era, all of that happened naturally.
DX: Speaking of Pro Era, those guys really represent that ‘90s New York sound that you helped cultivate early on. What was it like working with those guys?
Buckshot: Those guys are next level. Not only do they respect the music from the ‘90s, but they respect the music that we put out in the ‘90s, so it was just natural that we connected on a musical level. You got an artist like that that loves underground Hip Hop from the ‘90s. I’m one of the few artists from that era that’s still out here, representing from the ‘90s. And one of the questions that I get asked constantly is, “Where you been?” or “What you been up to?” And that’s more the older cats. The younger cats will know what I’m doing. That just shows that they’re out of touch with Hip Hop. Anybody old school should embrace the new school and what the new school is doing because that’s how they gained respect, and that’s how people gained respect for you.
Why Buckshot Says Backpack Rap Is Being Embraced
DX: The album is called Backpack Travels. How do you think the perception of backpack Rap has changed from the time you first dropped the line about rocking, “baggy black jeans, knapsack and a beeper,” back in ’93?
Buckshot: The perception of backpack Rap has changed from something that was negative at first, and then it turned to something positive. It becoming positive is something that came from what we did and how we came out with the perception. Later on through the years, people learned to embrace it. When I came up, I respected guys like KRS-One, and guys like Rakim and Big Daddy Kane because you could tell that these people grew up when Hip Hop was about beats and rhymes. If you got respect for the artists of yesterday, you’re more likely to have respect for the artists of today as far as the love of original Hip Hop. With that being said, the artists that are on my album represent the love and the respect of artists from yesterday. They represent that love, and it was very important for me to translate that to the artists of today. When you hear artists like that that make music, you should acknowledge them because these are not just artists that are putting out records to put out records. These are artists that are putting out records representing Hip Hop.
DX: These days you got guys like Tech N9ne and Macklemore reaping the benefits of being independent artists, but you were one of the first to do it. Do you feel that now, more than ever emcees should opt for independence over signing with the majors?
Buckshot: I know all about the music industry. I know where this stuff is headed. I knew where brick and mortar was headed years ago. That’s why I got online. I had DuckDown.com since 1995, before people even knew what a dot com was. This cool ass white dude put me on to computers and told me, “This is where we gotta go.” I knew what was gonna happen, and I’m telling you the same thing is gonna happen now. You see how crazy this music industry is because people just don’t know. All these 360 deals that are mandatory now for all the major labels are the craziest thing in the world. Period. That’s the worst situation. Getting signed [to a major label] now is so much worse, because the labels give you a small amount of money and then they’re taking all your stuff. So any time we give you money for anything you gotta give money to the label. Labels got smart and said, “We’re tired of giving a million or $100,000 dollars to the artist, and he winds up taking all the promotion that we did for him and go out there and get an endorsement deal for a million dollars, and we don’t get a cent from it.” But that was how it was supposed to go, and people like Lyor Cohen came through and did that wack ass 360 deal shit.