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: What set this whole thing off?
El-P: Set what off? What set Sole off?
HipHopSite.Com: Well, why do think Sole came at you like that?
El-P: One time that I ever met Sole was at Rocksteady ’97. He came up to me, as a fan, gave me respect, took a picture with me, and gave me his record.
HipHopSite.Com: Did you listen to his record?
El-P: Yeah, I didn’t think much of it, because a lot of people come up to me and give me their records. I think I spoke to him one time after that. He called me about doing shows in Maine, where he’s from. You know, basically just illin’ on some hip-hop shit, but just one conversation. I didn’t really speak to him again. I didn’t really know him, I don’t even think I even remembered him.
HipHopSite.Com: And then…
El-P: When I heard from him, it was indirectly. I did a show in Boston, last summer. These cats that I’m cool with, 7L and Esoteric are like:
“Do you know this kid Sole?”
“No, who is Sole?”
“This kid Sole, from Live Poets…”
“Oh yeah, I met that kid.”
“Did you dis him in “Weight”?
“Nah, I didn’t dis him. What are you talking about? What the fuck does he think I’m dissing him?”
“That line where you said “Is it Live You Motherfuckers?”
HipHopSite.Com: That’s kind of vague….
El-P: Yeah, not only is it vague, but it was a throwback to Run DMC. But he wouldn’t know that being the new jack that he is….
HipHopSite.Com: But why did he think the line was aimed at him?
El-P: I don’t know! ..Bro, because he is in “Live Poets”. …”Is it live?”
HipHopSite.Com: I see….
El-P: My whole thing was, I was buggin’…, because I was like, how fuckin’ egotistical and paranoid is that? How important does this kid think he is that I would dis him, only meeting once in my life. Why? Why would he be sitting, living in Maine, convinced that El-P from Company Flow was dissing him in this song.
But the way it was phrase to me was that he wanted to know if I was dissing him in the song. So I tell them to tell him to chill, and that I’m not dissing him. They get back to him apparently, and much later they come at me like, “Yo, that kid Sole, still thinks you are dissing him in another line.”
HipHopSite.Com: And what was the line he thought this time?
El-P: “Let’s eliminate bandwidth, and communicate physically.”
HipHopSite.Com: What was the original intent of that line?
El-P: Yo man, it was a concept… I guarantee you it had nothing to do with Sole from The Live Poets. If that’s the case, I could essentially take any lyric from any song, and twist it around so that it was about me. I don’t know, maybe he thinks that he is the Lawnmower Man or something, living in his virtual universe, so that if I say something about bandwidth it automatically has to be about him….. Like I even ever gave this kid one thought, especially a negative one…. But this kid was so not part of my existance that I’m buggin’ out like, “This cat again? He’s out of his fucking mind!”
HipHopSite.Com: So then you went to Fat Beats?
El-P: Nah….that’s not the chronology. I have not said anything about this kid publicly, but he’s doing this whole cyber-promotional slander campaign of misinformation. I don’t go on the internet….I just got a computer like two months ago, and all I do is play backgammon on it. I don’t go to websites, I’m not up on it that much, I got people who do that…. So, then we go to Europe, and kids are telling me, “Yo, a lot of kids are dissing you on the internet.”
El-P: Nah, just miscellaneous cats talking shit…. But then I get back, and I’m told that there is this website with a picture of me next to The Spice Girls, saying “Company Flow Vs. The Spice Girls”. And then it had all this shit about saying we’re not really independent, and making fun of the whole underground scene in New York, dissing Fat Beats and Fondle ‘Em. Basically dissing all the independent shit, or what was perceived as independent. So then, someone alerted someone in our camp that this was that kid, Sole’s, website, and he put that shit up about us. By the way, at this point, the song “End To End Burners” was already in production, the track, the lyrics and everything… So this kid thought we were dissing him, we went out of our way to tell him that we weren’t.
HipHopSite.Com: How did you go out of your way to tell him you weren’t?
El-P: By telling the cats that told me that he thought we were dissing him, to tell him that we were not dissing him. So then…. Well, I’ve heard Sole tell the story, and in his version, apparently, he called up Len, and confronted him about it, and they squashed the beef…. That’s not how it happened. 100% bullshit. Len called him. Sole was in NY recording with some cats we knew, so Len calls him up, and proceeds to scream on Sole, basically telling him, that he’s lucky he didn’t come there because he’s going to beat his ass. And all that funny internet shit, bullshit, is way out of line…. Sole is apologizing, and then Sole translating this as the beef being squashed. Then, I’m like, “Okay, this shit is dead.”
So then we did “End To End Burners” and I said that line about the internet shit. That came from the heart, because I felt like a lot cats were dissing us on the internet…. (“Dis me on the internet like picket line crossing teamsters / Scabs are only down with hip-hop if convenient”) So then I think about it, and am like, well, if this kid took my other shit out of context, he’s gonna take this shit out of context. So, then I go the extra mile, and write that shit on the back of the “End To End Burners” 12″ (“To all of those who fantasize we’re dissing you specifically, stop, if that time ever comes, you’ll know”) So, Sole’s the asshole who goes, “No, you are dissing someone specifically, it’s me!”
HipHopSite.Com: Yeah, but I remember when that shit came out, and when this whole thing was brewing, and when I read that line, it was clear that that shit was aimed at someone in particular.
El-P: But I am literally stating, “I am not dissing anyone specifically”. But my whole thing was, I went out of my way, to make sure that cats like him, and I wasn’t thinking about him specifically, but cats like him, don’t think I am talking about them, because I went through this shit with him already. He inspired me to write it, no doubt, because I didn’t want anyone to misinterpret this shit. He was on some real, “If the shoe fits, wear it” shit. It seems pretty simple to me, I went on the back really specifically stating I am not dissing anybody in particular, and he still thinks I am dissing him. I thought that it was incredibly clear, but then I find out, that he thinks I am dissing him again, now on “End To End Burners”. At this point, I think to myself, fuck it, whatever I say, he’ll think I’m trying to dis him. So then I hear,
“This kid Sole is doing a dis record on you.”
“Yeah, did you block his distribution?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“He’s saying that you blocked his distribution.”
HipHopSite.Com: Why do you think he would come at you with that shit?
El-P: Son… I wish to God, I knew what was going on in this cat’s head. I’m thinking, “how the hell do I have enough power to block his distribution? Who the fuck am I? Rupert Murdoch?” Like I am some big player in the hip-hop industry. So I am connecting all the dots. He spoke to Lenny, apologized to Lenny, thought we were dissing him from day one, and now he thinks we’re blocking his distribution. Then he’s conjuring shit out of thin air, saying that I bit my style from my man Vordel, who is someone I just met like last year, and who is also someone I am down with. Now, I’m getting pissed off, because he told Len that he was feeling us. Essentially I am getting dissed by this kid who is a big fan of ours. This is slowly starting to annoy the shit out of me, and really the thing that set me off was that thing about blocking the distribution. If anything, we have gone out of our way to extend a helping hand to artists, and he’s saying were doing some shit that is totally against my whole nature and my whole philosophy, that I got really fucking upset.
HipHopSite.Com: So then he releases his shit….
El-P: I hadn’t heard it, but it was circulating around the internet, and on tapes and shit, and then I’m starting to get pissed off because all these people are asking me about this shit. I got magazines from Canada asking me if I want to give my side of the story, and I’m like “No, I don’t give a fuck….” So I pt a phone call in, leave a message and he doesn’t call back for a while, or something, I don’t remember how I got in touch with him. Finally, I get fed up, and I get this little micro-cassette recorder that we use to record skits on and shit. So he calls my crib, and Vordel was there, and he picks up the phone, and has words with him and is like: “Yo why you putting my name up in that shit, I don’t have anything to do with this…” So then, I call him back, and we go through the whole chronology of this shit as to why he was completely out of his fucking mind, and maybe it was possible that every lyric I ever wrote was directed at him. And he’s telling me: “My distributor tried to get my record in at Fat Beats, and they asked him, if I was the kid who dissed Co-Flow on the internet, and they wouldn’t take it.”
HipHopSite.Com: So do you think that this whole thing played a role in Fat Beats not wanting to distribute the record?
El-P: I told Sole that nobody ever talked to me about this, and if Sole was a fucking man, he would have talked to me about this. But I don’t have control of this. Even if I wanted to do this, I really don’t think there is any way that I could call a distributor and tell them not to make money off of a record. So, I’m telling him “Yo, you should have called me cause I had no idea this shit was going down. But what did you expect, if you put some shit on the internet dissing people, others that are down with that person may take it badly.” I didn’t even know if that really happened. He told me that that’s what happened, but I talked to everyone on the Fat Beats staff, and nobody over there knows what I am talking about, and they told me that they just didn’t like the record.
HipHopSite.Com: Okay, so, by this time you have probably heard the record.
El-P: Honestly, I still haven’t heard the record…. I have heard pieces of it, read the lyrics in Urb or whatever, but I haven’t heard the song in it’s entirety. Anyway, so at the end of the conversation, he’s like:
“You’re being cool, I wished I had talked to you. It’s dead, I am not going to release the record.”
“Go ahead, release the record if you want to release the record, but I want you to know, you are not on point. All that shit you are talking is not reality.”
It’s like all that shit he was talking was little pieces sewn together to seem like something bigger. But I decide that I’m going to put this shit out of my head, and not respond to it. So, months later we’re listening to this tape of him on the phone, laughing hysterically, and we are just marveling at what a pussy he is. What I mean by that is, he talks so much shit on the record, but when it came down to it on the phone, he turned into a little bitch.
I wasn’t even going to respond, but then I’m hearing about it everywhere, on internet websites, the lyrics in Urb, and I’m like I just can’t handle this anymore. I can’t let him shit on my name like that, and say things about me that aren’t true. My whole thing was, I’m just going to do some real funny shit…
HipHopSite.Com: So then you did your retaliation…. What’s it called?
El-P: Yeah…. It’s called “Linda Trip”
HipHopSite.Com: What are you trying to say in the retaliation?
El-P: Basically my whole point was, don’t step to cats if you have no idea about it. On the real, you could get fucked up on some shit like that. If you are spreading rumors and gossip about someone, it could come back to you. My message to him is “You don’t really know who your fucking with, and don’t try to front like you are Mr. Badass, when you are not that person.”
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