The Away Team Talk "Scars & Stripes" & Rapper Big Pooh "Doing His Own Thing"
Exclusive: Khrysis and Sean Boog break down the meaning behind their new album and explain why most of their crew "save for Big Pooh" is rolling with 9th Wonder.
With this week’s release of 9th Wonder’s The Wonder Years and Phonte’s Charity Starts at Home, a new chapter in the story of the Justus League has begun being written.
Now that 9th and Tay’s personal and professional relationship has been officially reinstated, their crew has found itself reconfiguring, with members moving to different recording homes within the camp, and even one “Big” member seemingly moving on from the J. League altogether.
Two original J.L. members, emcee Sean Boog and producer Khrysis (who is now also emceeing), together known as The Away Team, have moved to 9th Wonder’s Jamla label (distributed by Duck Down Records) for the October 11th release of their fifth offering, Scars & Stripes.
On Tuesday (September 27th), the North Carolina natives spoke with HipHopDX about how they ended up rolling with 9th, and how 9th and Phonte’s reunion affected them beyond music. The interracial tag team also addressed the confusion that has been created in part by that reunion within their crew in regards to certain members and even their onetime recording home.
HipHopDX: I just wanna start off by having you guys break down the new album title, and how it ties into the cover photo.
Sean Boog: [For] the album cover, we took … a symbol of American history [in the 1965 Watts Riot] and [utilized it to show] how it was a necessary scar to get where we are in relation to today with race, and just where we are as a society today.
You break [that title and concept] down into our lives, and in our struggles to get where we are today … and we just speak our own scars so that people could relate.
DX: And the “stripes?”
Sean Boog: The stripes, that’s like when you go through bullshit and you come out on top. You earn stripes. You can look back like, Okay, that got me where I am today. I needed that, and now I get the stripes and I move on.
DX: Now, [Talib] Kweli ripped it on “Set It Off” ... and what may be surprising to some, Khrysis came with the ill flow on the horn-driven headnodder “Cheers.” So when was Khrysis the emcee born?
Khrysis: Khrysis the emcee was born on uh … I don’t actually have an exact date, but he was born on the rough version of “Get Enough” by Little Brother. That’s like the first verse that I wrote, and I wrote that verse probably like a year before LeftBack came out. … I didn’t record it over that beat either. I had another beat that I had made, and as a producer there are times when I’ll make a beat and – As a producer, it goes beyond making beats, so I’m trying to take that beat and turn it into a song, and trying to pick out who would be able to turn it into a song. And I was having a difficult time. Yet, I have a head full of ideas. So, I was just like, “You know what? Let me just take a stab at it myself.” And, I guess it worked.
DX: Any plans after “Make It Big” from The Wonder Years for a Khrysis/9th Wonder duo project of y’all actually rhyming together? Y’all sound really good together as producers turned rappers.
Khrysis: Uh … nah. No. But I do have plans of maybe doing an EP with myself [rapping]. And, me and Oh No actually have started a project, with us rapping with each other over each other’s beats.
DX: I mentioned 9th. I gotta ask you Sean about your “J. League, now it’s Jamla, baby” line on “See U Later” [featuring Phonte]. How did it come to be that basically everybody in the Justus League – except for Rapper Big Pooh – migrated over to 9th’s label through Duck Down?
Sean Boog: I think me and Khrysis are really the only ones on the label that are like artists on Jamla [Records] that are Justus League members. Cesar Comanche and [Edgar Allan] Floe, they work on the business end. I mean, they’re still doing music, respectively, [but] they’re not artists on the label. But, as far as that [move] goes, it was really a seamless transition. 9th’s been family for over a decade. We came up together. We were all on Hall Of Justus [Records] at one point. And it came to a point where me and Khrysis had talked about what we wanted to do in the future with music and where we were trying to go with it, and we really wanted to strike out on our own. And it was just kind of a thing like, Okay, in order to get where we need to go, we gotta strike out on our own and make our own moves. And while we were doing that – I mean, 9th’s family, so … it just worked out that we ended up over there. It was one of them things that it just fell together.
Khrysis: Yeah, it really just fell into place. Me and [Sean] Boog were actually looking to venture out on our own. And in just hangin’ out with 9th – on some cool shit, not even on no business shit … We was just hangin’ out, and all listening to each other’s music. We were actually gonna give a good portion of this project away for free, and to quote 9th, “Over my dead body.” [Laughs]
DX: [Laughs] So you guys said you were already breaking away from Hall Of Justus, is Hall Of Justus officially dead?
Sean Boog: Uh … I don’t have an answer to that.
Khrysis: Yeah, I can’t answer that.
Sean Boog: I have no idea to be honest wit’chu.
DX: There has been a lot of transition in the J. League over the last couple years, with Little Brother being put to bed, and then Phonte and 9th reuniting. So how have those changes affected y’all and the crew as a whole?
Sean Boog: It’s just growth. I think it’s people growing up, people finding their own avenues and they take ‘em. And I mean, as far as 9th and Tay being cool again, and squashing that and letting their friendship come through before the bullshit, I think it shows a lot. To me, it kinda makes me look at how I make moves and what’s really important.
Khrysis: They were friends before any of this went down, and just to watch two friends settle their differences in the fashion that they did, it was actually quite inspiring.
DX: That friendship mending though obviously tweaked things in the crew. And, I’m just a little out of the loop of everything, how it’s reconfigured. So can y’all clarify for me if Pooh is still down? ‘Cause he wasn’t on 9th or Phonte’s new albums.
Sean Boog: I mean, Pooh’s doing his own thing as far as I know.
Khrysis: Yeah, he went his own way. He’s actually working on his project now …. Dirty Pretty Things is droppin’ in November, so he’s doing his own thing. Much success to him.
DX: Khrysis, you didn’t do any production for it?
DX: I wanna wrap up this quick Q&A by asking y’all one more Justus League-related question, and I’m sure it’s one you guys have either gotten or you kinda wanna address: Have y’all previously seen or heard folks confuse your crew for the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League production team? Has that name similarity become problematic?
Khrysis: I wouldn’t say so.
Sean Boog: Nah, I wouldn’t say so at all.
Khrysis: I mean, Rook’s the homie. And I do a lot of work with Laws too. So, there’s been no problems as far as that’s concerned. Maybe from like a fans perspective, but from ours it’s like, nah.
Sean Boog: At the end of the day, there’s always gonna be some kind of confusion with stuff like that, but there’s nothing you can do to change that.