This afternoon, HipHopDX spoke to M.O.P.'s (Mash Out Posse) Billy Danze. The legendary Brownsville, Brooklyn emcee touched upon his upcoming solo debut, the group's relationship with neighboring emcees Smoothe Da Hustler and Trigger Tha Gambler, as well as a mentor to M.O.P. in Bumpy Knuckles (a/k/a Freddie Foxxx). Additionally, Billy spoke about how once upon a time, bootleggers in Brooklyn very nearly got an aluminum Louisville Slugger to the face in a cult-cherished YouTube video.
HipHopDX: Billy, M.O.P. has a show at Southpaw with Top $ Raz on April 7. Throughout the years, what does it mean to you to perform in front of the hometown, home-team in Brooklyn?
Billy Danze: It's crazy, because you don't really expect to perform at home. I walk around Brooklyn everyday. So it's really crazy that people actually come out and show the love. "Dude, you just seen me at the store the other day." [Laughs] It's great though, man, to be able to come home and do a concert. We're the guys that's voted most likely to fail, and everybody around there knows it. But to see us on stage, and everybody gives us love, we really appreciate it. I'm looking forward to it.
DX: One of my favorite songs in your catalog is "Let It Bang," from the X-Ecutioners' Built From Scratch album. You and the X-Men met each other lovely with the energy. Especially in the wake of losing Roc Raida, what can you tell me about that song?
Billy Danze: It's a sad situation: the passing of Roc Raida. We had a chance to [see] Roc Raida, maybe less than a week before [he had a spinal injury], out in L.A. We were talking about that song too, possibly incorporating the song into either our show or Busta [Rhymes'] show. The energy - just the beat alone, it sounded like dude was playin' live instruments or somethin'. I'm not sure how he put the record together, but it was a blessing to be on a Roc Raida track, and all the attention that we got from the record at the time, and that we still get from the record now, it's a lil' overwhelming. It's incredible. We gotta still think back to this great time where we all linked up together. And now Roc Raida is no longer here to enjoy the fans asking for that record. Just dealin' with Roc Raida alone, on a personal level, he was a really, really good man. A really good man. He was the guy that you say, "I want this dude to be my friend," somebody who can inspire you to do something better, whether it's music or just being a good friend. I love Roc Raida, man.
DX: I can never decide which of M.O.P.'s albums is my favorite. It might be Warriorz, it might be the Rock album, Mash Out Posse. I know that went kind of under the radar. I still listen to that album often; I'm not even a Metal or Hard Rock kind of dude. How do you look back on that project, because you and Fame absolutely tore shit down...
Billy Danze: [Laughs] Thank you, brother. That album, it was easy to do. We make loud, really loud, aggressive music anyway. But to have a live band...I'm still fascinated by five different people, on a stage, makin' music with the drums and the guitar. I still find that fascinating! I can't play a drum, I can't play a guitar. To put that together and put it out...you say "it slipped under the radar," I'm not sure if it slipped under the radar - you got it, and everybody who loves M.O.P. got it. We're happy with that.
Of course we grabbed a few more fans as we put the record, young White America, or across seas where people really enjoy good music and creativity. I'm happy with the outcome. And we're gonna do it again. So, we'll be working on that in a few months, as soon as we knock out a few more projects.
DX: DX just put up an article this morning with Smoothe Da Hustler and Trigger Tha Gambler. Those guys were talking about the friendly competition you and them had in the '90s, with total respect. Tell me about that, because you four, along with Boot Camp Clik, are who put Brownsville on the Hip Hop map.
Billy Danze: Definitely! Hats off to Smoothe [Da Hustler] and Trigger [Tha Gambler] too. I was just listening to "Broken Language" the other day; them guys are awesome. I'm not even sure if we could call it "friendly competition," I don't think we were competing at all. They were doing what they were doing, we were doing what we were doing. But the media and the people in the neighborhood really made it crazy. We're from Brownsville, where you don't really talk with a mic, and you don't really talk with a lawyer. I think people try to make it into [a thing where] we would ride up the hill or they would ride down the hill and it could get ugly. Luckily, both parties were sensible enough to know that we just gonna keep doin' what we doin' and every time we see 'em it's always love. I actually just did a record with Smoothe too. I spoke to him a couple of days ago, so we're about to start some M.O.P., Smoothe Da Hustler, Trigga Tha Gambler-type things as well. It was great until people started to make it seem like we should probably shoot each other. [Laughs] We're talkin' about music, man. M.O.P., Smoothe Da Hustler, Trigga Tha Gambler, we just happened to know how to rap. We ain't rappers. [Laughs] We're not from that world. We just happen to do it, and we do it real well.
DX: A similar question to that. One of the illest lines to me is on "P.A.I.N.E." where Bumpy Knuckles spit "I'm Billy Danze, Billy Graham, Lil Fame, Jesse James, Manson and Dahmer..." That's family to you, obviously. But what did that salute, that line, which is put together real smooth, what did it mean to you?
Billy Danze: [Laughs] Every time that Bumpy [Knuckles] says anything [about] M.O.P., or anytime Bumpy walks into the room and shakes my hand, we do more than a handshake, we do a firm, family gathering kinda hug. To be on Bumpy's radar and to be family with Bumpy, and to actually have made records with Bumpy, I feel like in some sense, that kinda makes me feel like I made it. Bumpy's that guy that did "The Master" when I was a kid, when I would rush home from school [to hear it]. He wasn't as popular as everybody else, but he was if not as talented, he was more talented than a lot of other rappers out there. So just to be able to say, "Bumpy, that's my family," I am more than happy. I am proud as hell to be a part of his team, and have him be a part of my team.
DX: A lot of your fans experience M.O.P. through the Internet. One of my favorite things on the Internet is that classic YouTube video of you, Fame and Teflon strolling through Brownsville, looking for bootleggers with an aluminum bat. It's funny, but it's serious. When was the last time it had to come to that?
Billy Danze: [Laughs] I think, as far as bootleggers, I think that was pretty much the last time. You seen the video; a lot of other people seen the video. [Laughs]
Basically, people always ask, "How come nobody ever had a problem with y'all on records?" "Nobody ever messed with M.O.P." We don't mess wit' nobody! Listen, I'm an artist and I like to believe that I'm good at writing music or doin' my verses or whatever. It actually takes time for me to sit there and think. It takes my brain power and everything. I don't have time to actually sit there and write a record about somebody else. So if we got a problem, we gonna get on the phone or we gonna meet in the middle of the street and we gonna handle it like normal men. Nahmean? We haven't had no problems since that, man. That was a funny situation. We was a lil' mad - really mad. Why would you be bootleggin' my record right at my house? It ain't like you crosstown; you right at my crib! You gonna show some come of respect, dude! Don't do it like that because we're gonna end up in jail [and] somebody gonna end up in the hospital. Somethin's gonna happen, and I believe that I'm right. [Laughs] As much as a gangster or thug may wave that flag in your face, the truth of the matter is, we're all just men. I have to respect you; I don't care how tough I may be or how tough I want to be, I gotta respect you - until you show me that you don't deserve respect. We all gotta be men, and that's the only way we can have harmony in the house.
DX: The obligatory question. I know Lil Fame has projects coming with Statik Selektah and Termanology. What's on tap for you and for the group, besides what you told me?
Billy Danze: My solo album, which is called Behind Gates, I'll have that completed really soon. I'm just pulling in the features now. So far I've got Busta on it, pullin' in Slaughterhouse. I got some Wu-Tang [Clan] cats on there that I'm about to put some calls into. I'll be able to have that out shortly.
Also, the website - WeBuildHits.com. We have a lot of big producers up there that's actually working with unsigned artists. We only want to work with unsigned artists, 'cause there's a lot of guys out there that have the talent, that'll rap circles around the top guys, but they don't have the runway. So we've got Pete Rock, we've got D/R Period, we've got Heatmakerz, we've got Easy Mo Bee, DJ Scratch, Statik Selektah, Lil Fame - 25 different producers, huge producers, platinum and Grammy producers that are up there, supplyin' beats to unsigned artists.
We build records. We'll take an artist from New York City, if we like what he does on the track, we'll keep him. We'll take another artist, from Canada. If we like what he does on the track, we'll keep him. Same deal with [an emcee] from Germany. Three-way cross promotion, then it's like you're cheatin' 'cause you've got the biggest producer in the world [on the beat] and I'm gonna hand the deejay the record myself. We have 23 different countries involved right now.