He’s the proprietor of a digital music marketplace, WavyTUNES (Hey-AZ.com), an impressive actor (Belly, and the recently released-to-DVD film Envy), and unquestionably one of the most proficient lyricists in Hip Hop history, and now AZ is celebrating his legacy in the entertainment field with a special commemorative 15th anniversary edition of his classic debut album, Doe Or Die.
Due 15 years to the day of its original’s release, on October 10th November 23, the anniversary edition of Do Or Die is shaping up to be a “Rather Unique” offering unlike any previous re-release of an artist’s defining work.
On Monday (August 23rd) AZ spoke to HipHopDX, and in the quick Q&A below The Visualiza breaks down just what fans will be getting in this special edition of one of the ‘90s most important Hip Hop albums.
HipHopDX: First off, tell me about this 15th anniversary special edition of Doe Or Die.
AZ: I just wanted to give back to the peoples that been holding me down for 15 years, [and also] just to keep the AZ brand alive. With so much going on in the Hip Hop game, [and] it becoming a hustle, I just wanna keep the name alive, keep the brand alive, keep the Doe Or Die alive, ya know.
DX: You own the masters of the album?
AZ: Doe Or Die, I don’t own the masters. But I always owned all my publishing… But, I’m in the process of getting [those] masters right there [too]. That’s the only album that I’m fighting [for] right now. But by me owning the publishing I can do what I want with it, as far as [for] the Doe Or Die: 15th Anniversary [Edition]. What we’re doing is, I’m trying to get a few of the same people that produced certain tracks [on the original] and get a different track for [each of those songs] and re-spit it.
DX: Oh okay, so you’re gonna remix some of the original songs?
AZ: Right. True indeed.
DX: With just new beats, or new beats and new verses?
AZ: New beats, and a new verse here and a new verse there. And I’ma probably put three or four [completely] new songs on the whole thing.
DX: Can you let it loose of who you’re holla’n at to do some of them remixes…?
AZ: I got Buckwild [from] Diggin’ In The Crates, one of the originators, [and who produced “Ho Happy Jackie”]. I got D/R Period. [He] did a lot of M.O.P.’s joints, [and also produced “Mo Money, Mo Murder ‘Homicide’”]… Pete Rock, he’s about to hopefully do “Rather Unique” over right now. I’m waiting for his call as we speak. I got [Lil] Fame [from M.O.P.]. You know Fame been under the [DJ Premier production] umbrella, so he’s doing his thing… Statik Selektah, he’s in the mix hardbody. He did some scratches on one of the joints, “Feel My Pain” , that I released in June. Actually, that particular song gon’ be on the [Doe or Die: 15th Anniversary Edition] as well. And…Frank Duke, which is the producer of “Feel My Pain,” he did a couple of 50 [Cent] joints and so forth. Baby Paul, [who produced “The Essence” featuring Nas on Aziatic and “Bedtime Story” on A.W.O.L.]. So, I’m just trying to keep it in-house at the end of the day.
DX: So you’re saying the tracklisting would be like the original album plus this like bonus album of remixes and new songs and stuff?
AZ: Well, what it would be is I’ll take like the best 6 [songs] off of Doe Or Die and remix [those], and then add, like I said, four other [new] joints too it - just to give ‘em something new. I didn’t wanna do the whole Doe Or Die album [over], but I picked the best ones, from “Sugar Hill” to “Gimme Yours,” “Rather Unique,” “Ho Happy Jackie,” the [title-track]. And then added the rest [of the] brand new songs, just to give the new fans of today a taste of what’s going on.
DX: I gotta ask, you gonna add any like lost tracks from that era that didn’t make the original Doe Or Die tracklist?
AZ: That’s an idea. ‘Cause I’m wrapping everything up as of right now, but that’s a good idea. ‘Cause there was like two or three songs that didn’t make the album. I’m just trying to see if it didn’t make it then, should I put it on there now even though it’s lost tracks. But, that’s not even up to me to decide, I’ll let the people that I deal with, let them hear it and get their opinion.
DX: Well you mentioned some of the new remixes you’re trying to get, [but are] you gonna put the Erick Sermon remix of “Gimme Yours” [from ‘95] on there? ‘Cause that shit was too smooth.
AZ: Yeah, that should make it ‘cause that wasn’t even on [the original] album. You absolutely right, man. You about to get an executive producer credit.
DX: [Laughs] And that dope-ass remix of “Sugar Hill” that was on my cassette back in ’95 but I don’t know if it was on like all the vinyl and all the CDs and stuff.
AZ: Which one was on the cassette?
DX: The L.E.S. remix. It was like the last track [on there].
AZ: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Ayo, here’s some ill shit that you could – You helping me catch the flashback, actually before Miss Jones even sung “Sugar Hill,” Faith Evans sung it first. I think I got the copy of Faith Evans singing the “Sugar Hill” before Miss Jones did it. That might be crazy. I might gotta throw that one on there [too].
DX: [And I understand] you’re just gonna be putting this [15th Anniversary Edition] on like iTunes – no physical CDs?
AZ: No physical. I don’t think I wanna do that, because I’m really gearing up towards [the physical release of] Doe Or Die 2. But I just definitely wanted to give back for all those that held me down on this long [journey to Doe Or Die 2].
AZ: True indeed, yes sir.
DX: And…with regards to “Feel My Pain,” I wanted to ask you about the “finding out your friends ain’t shit” part in the second verse: what was illuminated for you about whom? [Laughs]
AZ: [Laughs] I mean, you know, you go through so much [and it seems like] so many people got your back, but at the end of the day they gotta have they own back. And [that’s] understandable to an extent, but it’s supposed to be each one teach one… But, you find out as you grow older that it’s every man for hisself. And that’s definitely what I figured out through [this] life…which is not a bad thing, you gotta step up to the plate.
DX: And also on that track you mentioned [that you] “puffed blunts with Big in the flesh.” Were you just referring to the video shoot for the Jay-Z joint [“Dead Presidents”] or were there other times that you - ?
AZ: [Notorious B.I.G.] from Brooklyn, I’m from Brooklyn, [so] I ran into Big a couple of times. I went on his stomping grounds [and] politicked with him, saw him in clubs [and] politicked, saw him in studios [and] politicked.
DX: How come a Biggie/AZ joint never materialized? That woulda been crazy.
AZ: I know, but you know it was early. When I sit back and think about it I’m like, damn, Big only released two albums. [Ready To Die] came out in ’94 and he passed [in] ’97. And within that [time] he went through a whole lotta shit. So, I’m sure if he was still around it woulda popped off. But, everybody was formulating they camps back then, and them was the days: me and Nas was together there, Wu-Tang [Clan] was over there, Biggie was doing his thing, and Jay-Z [was] trying to be a part [with] what he was doing, and it was just everybody was really trying to plant they flag around that time… But, ya know, so much shit start taking place it was like…chaotic.
DX: So I guess enough with the nostalgia, when we finally getting that sequel to Doe Or Die?
AZ: Listen, I’m trying to look for the right [label] home as we speak. I ain’t really figured out [an official release date yet], but I’m recording. And I know by next year it gotta come out no ifs ands buts or suppose. So that’s why I had to put out this Doe Or Die [15th Anniversary Edition], just to keep the fire warm for the ending of two-ten. Then top of the year we’ll figure it out. The album’ll be done [by then].
DX: Back in December you gave me an all-star wish list of collaborators you wanted to work with for Doe Or Die 2: Dr. Dre, Kanye West, etc. So who actually came through to help you make history again?
AZ: Well, I mean, it’s not done all the way, [but] of course Kanye [West] didn’t make it to the table, nor [Dr.] Dre. They trying to get they own shit off the ground; they working on they own joints [right now]. [But], the door’s still open. That’s why I said I can wait till next year. ‘Cause I’m sure after they get they rocks off and all that – And you know, I’ma stay putting out some music, ‘cause that’s what I do… [But] I’m sure they gonna come to the table. If not both, one of them’ll come to the table.
DX: I hope Kanye comes thru, that would be crazy.
DX: Now you mentioned Pete Rock is doing a remix of “Rather Unique” for [the] anniversary edition of Doe Or Die, but is he gonna do like a “Rather Unique Part 2” for Doe Or Die 2?
AZ: Uh, we not sure. Pete gave me a couple of tracks, [and] Pete been giving me a couple of [more] tracks as of lately. It’s a few of them we’re feeling, so it’s just a matter of recording and seeing what comes out… I know he’s gonna make the album, guaranteed.
DX: And the other original collaborators from the first Doe Or Die, Buckwild, D/R Period, you said they’re doing remixes for the anniversary edition, have they given you anything for the sequel?
AZ: I got beats from everybody, so I’m recording. As soon as I get this [anniversary edition out] and I sit back with my team and we start picking songs and piecing things together – But everybody you named I got music from.
DX: Let me throw [out] a couple more names: L.E.S., did you link back with him?
AZ: L.E.S., yeah, he’s given me some tracks. I’m trying to get [DJ Premier] on board [as well]… He’s been on the road lately [with] Rock The Bells and things of that nature, so I’m waiting for him to slow down and hopefully I get a track or two from him.
DX: And we did an interview with Baby Paul not too long ago and I understand he’s on board for Do Or Die 2?
AZ: Yeah, Baby Paul’s there. He’s a ride or die [dude for me]. He’s been doing a lot of things with [my label] Quiet Money… I recorded a couple of tracks for Doe Or Die 2 with him so far, and he’s actually remixing the [title-track from the original Do Or Die for the anniversary edition].
DX: So um, you know I gotta ask, [Laughs], [since Baby Paul’s working with you], “The Essence Part 2” coming soon?
AZ: Listen, I’m waiting for Nasir Jones to finish the tour he’s on right now. I went to one of his shows [last month] out here in Brooklyn [at] The Waterfront, just to check him out ‘cause I know he been on the road – and I been traveling, doing a couple of shows myself. It was good to see him. I didn’t really wanna talk about music at that particular time ‘cause it was just good to see my brother. I ain’t seen him in awhile… So, like I said, once he get off tour we can try to figure it out. For the love of the game I’m waiting for that. Not for anything else, but for the love of the game.
DX: Yeah, that’s why everybody is so excited about this project. I mean, everything we post up – an audio clip, or a news piece – about this, the commentary is just like…people are so amped about this.
AZ: I’m hoping everything go according to plan.
DX: I’m just surprised to see so much ’95 nostalgia [right about now]. I just did a retrospective on Big L’s first album with Lord Finesse, and I just interviewed Das Efx a couple weeks ago talking about Hold It Down. [And] it’s surprising that even the younger cats are into this; they’re appreciating and respecting 15 years later.
AZ: That’s the roots though. When you get something from the roots, all this was a part of what was planted. So, you gotta trace the roots and go back. Not to take nothing from Hip Hop now, but that’s when Hip Hop was Hip Hop. It was many voices, a lot of different characteristics, and…it was a beautiful thing back then. It meant something, a whole lot.
DX: But, like you noted on “Nothing Move”: “I ain’t old school yet.” [Laughs]
AZ: Not yet. No, not at all, not yet.
UPDATE: It has now been reported that AZ's 15th Anniversary release of Doe Or Die has been delayed to November 23. HipHopDX will keep you updated.