Boyz N Da Hood: Bad Boy Blues
After releasing their self-titled debut in 2005, which produced a smash hit in "Dem Boyz", the Boyz N Da Hood received several comparisons to NWA (perhaps helped by a feature from the late Eazy-E), but not much else. The albums sales, while not poor, were underwhelming. Meanwhile, group member Young Jeezy went on to pursue one of todays most successful solo careers in hip hop leaving the fans and media wondering how exactly the other three Atlanta natives would fair.
Things like this amount to a great amount of pressure, and the Boyz N Da Hood are more than willing to rise to the occasion. After picking up a fourth member in Gorilla Zoe (who collaborated with label-mate Young Joc on the single "Coffee Shop"), the Atlanta group is back with their second album Back Up N Da Chevy. Outspoken and vocal, Duke and Gorilla Zoe sat down with HipHopDX and theyve got a lot to say. Whether its gripes about Bad Boy, their take on Pimp Cs tirade or why Yung Joc got a better push, the Boyz are back in action. And hey, if youre not feelin them, it costs you nothin.
Pay them no mind.
HHDX: Whats good?
Duke: Whats good is the album about to come out October 2nd, Back Up N Da Chevy, you know what Im sayin? We got fifteen bangin tracks, we got in-house production from Dee Jay Dana, we got Drumma Boy on the album, we got Rick Ross on the album, you know what Im sayin honorary boy in da hood. We got, uh, Ice Cube on the album, legendary original boy in da hood. We got somethin for the ladies this time, we did somethin with T-Pain, so thats whats good, man.
HHDX: Some people may not know about your newest member. Care to tell us about Gorilla Zoe?
Duke: Yeah, Ill tell em. For anyone that dont know, thats his name Gorilla Zoe he is the newest member. If you dont know, you must be living under a rock, cuz he got the hardest record in the street right now called "Hood Figga". Straight from the A, he on that [Yung] Joc record "Coffee Shop", so he gettin a lot of good looks right now. Thats the newest member.
HHDX: So you already told me about the album, Back Up N Da Chevy. How do you feel youve changed since the last album? Not just in terms of emceeing, but your outlook on the hip hop game?
Duke: As far as my view on the hip hop game? Well, the first album, first time out, you know, you look at the game like probably anyone else. You excited cuz you got the chance to do something you been wanting to dohonestly, its cool, man. Its not really what I thought it would be, theres a lot of mirrors and smoke. In my world, we deal with much more reality-driven stuff. Real people, justreal people period. [The game] is what it is...industry.
HHDX: So you feel the industry is pretty far from what you see in everyday life.
Duke: Oh yeah. Way far from what I see in everyday life, cuz the type of cats that I deal with in the industry couldnt walk in my everyday life, know what Im sayin? Its all a faade, its Hollywood. Aint nobody real. You dont know who to believe, what to believewhatever sound good at the moment, thats what people tell you. And whoever hot at the moment, thats who people ride with.
Gorilla Zoe: I wasnt in the group the last album, buteverythings changed. Bootlegging, digitalit all affects sales, and artists have to make a certain kind of musicyou cant go outside the box. So the music is more watered-down for the record label, and record sales are down.
Duke: Thats why the record sales are down, because the music is so saturated and cheesy. They wont let people do what they want to do.
Gorilla Zoe: Thats right, the music is saturated.
HHDX: What was it like working with a legend like Ice Cube one of the originators of the whole gangsta sub-genre of hip hop?
Duke: As far as me, it was an honor. Thats what I grew up on, thats the era of music I grew up listening to. That was my hip hop back in the day. Thats why when people say hip hop is dead I dont know what theyre talkin aboutbecause my hip hop is just as alive as its always been. Thats what I grew up on, thats what I came up on. Thats what shaped our whole way of living back then down there.
Gorilla Zoe: Every day out herethis aint really a job, I really enjoy it. I mean its work, but every day I come into workand it was just an honor to do what I do with him.
HHDX: Did he have any advice or anything to share with you guys in particular?
Duke: Id just tell people to do they homework and know what you gettin into. Do your research understand how the game go. Understand where your money come from, how you supposed to get paid just do your homework. Know what youre gettin into.
HHDX: Was that your advice or Cubes?
Duke: That was mine. Cube recorded the record and sent it to us.
HHDX: Gotcha. You guys have drawn comparisons between yourselves and NWA, and seem to be really taking that seriously as you had Eazy on the last album, and now youve got Cube on this one. In what ways do you believe youre similar to them, and in what ways are you different?
Duke: When that first came outwe never said that. The media gave us that. You know, we roll with it because, really, it was an honor to us. But you know, if you listen to our records, we dont even makeour music sounds completely different from their music, as far as the type of records we actually make. Like, its street, but we talk more about other stuff. We talk about our work, they talked about their gangbangin stuff. We dont gangbang down here like that. We got to the money. But we went right back to that gutter, gangsta music that they were doing. People hadnt heard that in a long time nobody did that in a long time. Like I said, the game is so watered down that some gangsta music come around, the public get scared again, they aint know what to do with it.
Zoe: Well yeah, theyre a group of guys from the hood. They had hard lyrics, real lyrics. NWA, they from the west coast and of course they were in the game. We from Atlanta, which is the south and we more hood we get straight to the money. Here we are, 20 years later. Theres gonna be a difference in what we do.
HHDX: Theres been a lot of discussion in the past year about major labels vs. independent, especially due to the success of such artists as Jim Jones. Your situation is a bit unique, as you have Block Entertainment and Bad Boy backing you. What benefits and drawbacks do you see from both sides?
Duke: As far as the independent go, the advantage is that you call more shots. Thats how we need it to be. A lot of time you have agents come in, and youll start bumpin heads with them, like a power struggle. They wanna pick your records but they cant pick your records. They aint hear your environment or they dont live where you live, to know what record to pick cause they dont know what the people want. You cant pick a Boyz N Da Hood record cause yall aint here. Yall aint in the clubs to see what people like.
HHDX: How involved was Diddy in the project?
Duke: He wasnt. He get it at the end, when we done. Hell pick the record. Thats how he get involved he pick the single. It was the wrong one, too.
HHDX: Oh, so you dont agree with his single choice?
Duke: Oh, naw, I dont agree with it. Half of the DJs in the country dont agree with it thats why they aint playin it.
HHDX: What single should he have chosen?
Duke: He shouldve chosen the one that the streets chose. See thats the thing about Boyz N Da Hood: you cant pick our records, the street gotta pick it. Whether you like it or not, thats what it is. The record the street chose is "Bite Down". But they felt it was too hardcore or too this and that, but at the end of the day thats all the club is playing. You do the math.
HHDX: So is that a recurring problem with Diddy that you feel he chooses the wrong single, or
Duke: He two for two with us. Hes battin zero out of a thousand now. The two records he picked didnt work.
HHDX: So youre not happy with your situation at Bad Boy.
Duke: Im unhappy with certain things at Bad Boy. And its not just Bad Boy, its any label. I wouldnt be happy at Death Row; I wouldnt be happy at Interscope. Im not gonna be happy anywhere where someones controlling my destiny, and dont really know the direction we need to be going in. I got a problem with anyone whos doing that.
HHDX: So why dont you go the independent route?
Duke: Because you cant do that once you sign a contract. We cant just go independent. Thats how we started out and it was going great, by the way, when we was doing that.
HHDX: So youd like to one day move to an independent label.
Duke: Most definitely! My solo albums gonna be independent, cause I need to be my own boss!
HHDX: It seems like Yung Joc received significantly more publicity than you guys did. Why do you think that is?
Duke: Its obvious man, hes the more commercial cat! Look at his songs "Coffee Shop". Joc is more of a commercial artists, you know what I mean? Hes not a Boy N Da Hood, know what I mean? Not sayin he aint from the hood, cause thats my dude! But his music is not like our music. Hes made for that type of stuff thats what Joc is. He do commercial, party, feel-good radio-type records. And the label probably feel that he just more marketable than some gangsta shit. Thats the same with anybody. Why Chingy promoted more than anybody in DTP when Shawnna was the hardest thing over there? Its easy to promote something commercial, because the people in them offices are corporate commercial cats. They aint in the street, so they dont know whats hot for real. They read magazines or listen to the radio and listen to people talkin, actin like they hear what the people sayin, but they aint out here.
HHDX: Fair enough. What do you think of what Pimp C said about Atlanta?
Duke: I dunno man. He came back and cleared that lil statement up. It really didnt make any sense to me. He started out sayin we took our music from Three Six, I dunno where that came from. Everyone from Atlanta know we aint never been into shit like that. But, you know, he cleared up what he cleared up, and I guess he said what he said. None of it really made any sense to me, but thats what he said. He mighta been off that day, or wasnt really thinkin clearly or whatever, but he came back and apologized for it. Honestly, I didnt even really care about the statement. I dont believe in none of these cats, so none of these statements shake me one way or the other. None of them aint seein me, so I dont really give a shit what too many people got to say if they aint buyin our records.
Zoe: I dunno man, I aint pay too much attention. My name aint come up in it. He know who he talkin to, and whoever he talkin to know who he talkin to. Ill say Atlanta is the south we definitely the south. He aint say nothin about me though UGK one of my favorite groups.
HHDX: He seemed pretty aggravated and aggressive, particularly towards unnamed rappers in the A ones that he thinks dont lead the lives that they rap about.
Duke: Thats a personal issue. I dont know the man, so I dont know his personal issues with people. Maybe he shouldve named certain rappers directly; maybe thats a problem he got with them, I dunno. A lot of them rappers you shittin on are the same niggas talkin bout Free Pimp C in they records! He apologized, he said what he had to say. I guess its dead or whateverI dunno who them cats are who he talkin about.
HHDX: A lot of folks think he was talking about Jeezy; considering that you guys used to roll with him, do you think that accusation is directed to you as well?
Duke: I always been the type of catif a nigga dont say my name, he aint talkin to me. If Im talkin to you, Im talkin to you. I aint talkin to him, Im talkin to you. If I know your name, Ima say it! I dunno who he was talkin to; I dont know what he was talkin about, to be honest cuz it didnt get cleared up. The statement didnt clear shit up to me. A nigga woke up one day, had a bad night or something, I dont know. I dont have a clue. I dont know where that came from.
HHDX: Speaking of Jeezy, what do you have to say about people who say that you guys cant make it without him?
Duke: I dunno, well see! We doin aiight. As far as us not making it, its not Jeezy thats stopping us, its the label. So Jeezy did what he was supposed to do he came in there, gave us the album he committed to, and went on with his career. And it was a good look for both of us. I still fuck with Jeezy, he still in the hood. They said NWA couldnt survive without Ice Cube and shit.
HHDX: So you guys dont have any hard feelings towards Jeezy.
Duke: No, man. There aint no reason to. The man came out, like I said, he fulfilled his commitment. We wasnt best friends; we didnt grow up together. We were put in a situation, so dont nobody owe nobody nothin. It was an opportunity for four niggas to get heard, and start their career off. Thats it, thats what Boyz N Da Hood put together for. Why the hell we gonna get mad at him cause it worked.
HHDX: On your site, Duke is quoted as having said We are reaching a lot of different people in one group. I think we speak to so many people cause there are more have-nots in the world than people who got it. How do you reconcile that awareness, and the responsibility that comes with it, with the violent subject matter in your lyrics?
Duke: We didnt put the violence out here. We just let people know that its here, and thats how we deal with it. We dont just talk about violence; we talk about survival. And with survival comes violence ever since the beginning of time. We dont run from real issues, we talk about em and deal with em. Its not gonna go away. As long as America is America, we gonna have violence. As long as we have people like Bush in office, we gonna have violence! As long as we have people still supporting himwake up one day and realize we have a war for nothin lets talk about that violence!
Lets talk about the violence in the movies! Thats way more influential than records. I remember being a kid and the boy that stayed in the apartments next to me had to be rushed to the hospital and almost died cause his older brother busted him over the head with a hammer! Guess why he did it: cause he seen a cartoon and he wanted to see the [lump] swell up on his head! That wasnt intended they didnt make that cartoon for him to go do that! Thats what happens. Thats the problem with America we want to pass the problem off on somethin else. Its always somethin else we hidin behind. Thats why I dont give a fuck about the media theyll love you today and be shittin on you tomorrow.
Zoe: Our responsibility is to be able to give people something to look forward to to motivate the people. You see, you grab the people cause they in the same situation. You got to grab the people, then you can change their hearts, you feel me? Thats our responsibility. Violence is real; its a part of life. Its a part of our life. Thats what makes people gravitate towards our music. It helps them relate to you. We do live in violent situations and a violent environment. Once you grab em, you can show em whatll help em.
HHDX: Do you have anything you want to air out or say?
Duke: Yeah man! Shout out to Barry Bonds, the greatest baseball player to ever play ever! Tell him to keep his head up. He accomplished a great feat. They talkin about Hank Aaron when he broke the record. Its always gonna be somethin. Lets talk about all them dudes who took the steroids and couldnt hit 500 runs! Thats the type of stuff Im on right now.
Zoe: Thank you all for takin your time to read this, get that Gorilla Zoe Welcome to the Zoo, September 25th.