It’s the battle that no other magazine would cover, because the artists weren’t as large as Canibus or Cool J. As followers of underground and independent hip-hop may already be aware, there’s a little beef between two artists who are both putting down on the scene. El-P is virtually one of the kings of the New York underground scene, as he and the rest of his crew, Company Flow, have helped pave the way for many cellar dwelling emcees. The abstract stylings of Co-Flow were also the first to release a full-length album on the new underground hip-hop haven, Rawkus Records, after their much sought after, yet limited distributed “Funcrusher” EP was released.
But then there’s a smaller voice in the corner who has a lot to say. Hailing from Maine, but now residing in the Bay, Sole began with the group Live Poets a few years back, and most recently has formed his own label Anticon, with other experimental hip-hop gurus, Dose-One, Sixtoo, Circus and others. While not as recognized as Company Flow’s El-P, and nor as respected in NYC’s fussy underground scene, the true independent artist, Sole, is struggling to be heard. Yet by listening to his music, it’s evident that he feels that heads in hip-hop’s mecca don’t want to listen. Like many other artists outside of New York, such as Living Legends, Aceyalone, or even Hieroglyphics, Sole’s frustration with the entire scene has led him to the boiling point. A lyrical war of words with El-P has been waged over some of these very issues.
The controversy over what started the battle still remains a mystery. Is El-P really selfish enough to block distribution of Sole’s record? Or is Sole just paranoid over misinterpreted Company Flow lyrics? We talked to both parties about the beef, and thought it would be best to let you decide for yourself.
HipHopSite.Com: Tell me how this whole shit with El-P started:
Sole: Basically it started last year on this website we had, truehiphop.com. It was like a little sarcastic website, it wasn’t anything malicious, you know. There was this little graphic on there, or whatever, that said “Company Flow Vs. The Spice Girls”. Co Flow saw it, and hey got really angry, because it said “Fuck independent hip-hop, it’s all about good music.” We’re going to support anything from New York, L.A. , Minneapolis or where ever. They took that like we were trying to take out the New York indies with what we were doing, but it wasn’t even like that, so they took it like a dis.
I was in New York, recording with Atoms Family, and I spoke with Len, and he was like “What’s up, why you dissing us.” I was like, “Yo, it’s not a dis, it was more of a compliment to you guys, saying that you guys are like the forerunners of this movement. I don’t want beef, I love Company Flow and I don’t want to be against you guys.” So then he mentions that we thought they were dissing us on “Weight”.
HipHopSite.Com: What prompted you to think that they were dissing you on that song?
Sole: I don’t know, there were a bunch of lines…. “Is it live you fucking suckers” It just seemed like it was aimed at us. They were like, no it’s not about you and it was all cool. Three months later, I hear “End To End Burners” with that line. (“Dis me on the internet, like picket line crossing teamsters / scabs are only down with hip-hop if convenient.”) I’m like what the fuck is that shit?” Then I get the single, and I see that shit written on the back (“To all the heads that fantasize that we are dissing you, relax. If that time ever comes youâ€™ll know.”) That was obviously directed at us, but I wasn’t really trippin’ at this point, and I wasn’t going to do shit.
Then, my distributor, Big Daddy, tried selling the record to Fat Beats, and they weren’t going to take it. And they (Fat Beats) were like, “What’s up with El-P?,” and then I do a little homework, because I know a lot of people….
HipHopSite.Com: Can you be a little more specific?
Sole: I really can’t be, because I don’t want to drop names of motherfuckers that told me shit, and put people in awkward positions. But these are people that are down with the whole elitist empire, people that may or may not work at Fat Beats, but people that I have known for a long time that ain’t going to bullshit me. This motherfucker’s taking money out of my mouth all on some paranoid shit, on some bullshit, like squashing the little guy for no reason. Then I come back to San Francisco, and I find out that El-P is dissing me to The (Living) Legends, and he is dissing me to DJ so-and-so. All those fools are like, “El-P’s talking all this shit,” and I’m like “What the fuck, I thought we squashed this shit?” I told Len before, we can battle or whatever, and they didn’t want to battle, so it was dead.
So I made my little record, and it was more like “Fuck Company Flow, and fuck that whole scene of the elitist New York indie scene.” Right after I recorded it, El-P calls me up, sucking my dick, trying to get me to not to put the record out, he doesn’t want beef, he doesn’t want this to go down. And we didn’t know if we were going to put it out. First we were, then we weren’t. But then El-P’s calls, straight leveling like “Yo man, look man, here’s my life story, I know you guys respect us, but please don’t do this to me.” I was like, “Yo, I didn’t want beef, but ya’ll motherfuckers dissed me anyway.”
Later that night, Len calls me up, and is like “Yo, ya’ll motherfuckers, if you put that record out, we’re going to fuck you up.” I was like “Don’t threaten me, I’ll just put the record out.” I’m like, “Do you want to just battle then?” and El-P was like “Well, if I am feeling all hip-hop maybe we’ll battle…” I was like, that’s your whole thing, you guys are battle crazy emcees, but you won’t freestyle.” So, then he cuts the conversation all up and makes a record out of it.
HipHopSite.Com: You mentioned a New York elitist empire, what did you mean by that? Can you break that down a little?
Sole: It’s like, you got people who are doing a certain type of music…. You got your west coast artists, your mid-west artists, your artists down south, your artists in Canada or overseas. Then you got this small group of people in New York…. It’s not even really in New York, it’s more like people in Fat Beats, people over here, people over there. They’re bitter motherfuckers who didn’t make it in the major label industry, they all got dropped from they’re labels or ran they’re businesses into the ground, and now they have their little support structure. But rather than turning that love around, and helping other people, they make it a point to only help fools that are down with them. My beef with that shit is, if this is supposed to be underground, independent hip-hop, some creative shit, like an excursion away from the major label bullshit, it’s like this is the same politics all over again, and the music is just as lackluster, just not all shiny.
It’s like an animal farm. They set up an establishment as like an escape from major label shit, but it’s worse because everybody is broke, and nobody is making any money. I’m not saying everybody is trying to do what we are trying to do, being all abstract, and on some crazy shit, we are just trying to make honest music we like. But there are people in New York, Boston, and other places that would like to hear the kind of music that Aceyalone does, the kind of music Labtekwon does, the kind of music we do, but that shit gets fronted on. As whole, I think that really destroys independent hip-hop. That’s what “Dear Elpee” was about, it wasn’t just “fuck El-P”, it was like “Fuck all of ya’ll” because I don’t need them. What Anticon is trying to do, is set up another establishment, so fools don’t have to suck Fat Beats’ dick, or anybody’s dick. Just make good music and it will get put out there, and distributed correctly.
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