Oh no, the snow gotta go. I was thinking to myself “What else could go wrong?” I was all set to kick it with rapper A.G. (aka Andre The Giant) about his new CD and got a call from my daughter’s school that there would be early dismissal. The interview was scheduled for 1 pm and I was on the run trying to figure out how I was gonna pull this off. I would never make it back to the office in time, so I decided to go home and set up there, but then the battery to the speaker phone died. Tried to purchase a new one, but it had to be specially ordered. Brought a new phone just for the occasion and hooked it up. Tested the speaker phone, but didn’t think it was working. If I had taken the time (which was limited) to read the directions I would have found out that all I had to do is press the button and hang up the phone in order for it to work (duh). In a way the snow gave me some time to get myself together, because A.G. would be delayed 1 hour because of the weather conditions. Once A.G. got on the line, everything was fine.
I started out the interview by asking A.G. how he got started in the music industry. He replied, “As far music-wise, it’s always been a part of me, but professionally I started in 1989. I appeared on Lord Finesse’s debut album “The Funky Technician. The album featured our two songs “Back to Back Rhyming” and “Keep It Flowing. At the same time Show (A.G.’s partner) was producing some of these tracks. Me and Show decided to come together to do a song called “Soul Clap.”
At that time when the duo was trying to shop their songs to the record labels, gangsta rap was prevalent and the songs was not targeted for that type of audience. A.G. said, “The gangsta image was basically in and what we did is literally sold the record out of the trunk of Show’s car and sold about 5-6 thousand records in the tri-state area alone.” They started to receive calls from California, Connecticut, and England for the record. At that time, they didn’t have the finances or the know-how to get the record to these other places. They generated finances from other things that they were doing such as production and selling records on their own, but to get it noticed on a larger scale, Show and A.G. decided to sign with a major record label, London/Payday Records.
The last album dropped by the duo was in 1995, “Good Fellas” and A.G. tried to fill in the gaps for the last 5 years off the charts. A.G. explained, “I was trying to get out of my recording contract.You find out years later that sometimes the situations that you’re in really doesn’t better you or work to your advantage. We were signed to do multiple albums, but instead of dropping these albums and not getting what we deserved, I decided not to put another record out until they released us (from the contract).”
The duo took a stand and they were released from their contract. In 1989, Showbiz and A.G. independently released a full-length vinyl EP without distribution and it was critically acclaimed in many underground circles, even getting coverage in mainstream hip-hop magazines. A.G. said, “It showed us that even though people haven’t heard us in three years, they were still checking for us and appreciating our music.”
In 1999, A.G. signed with indy label, Silva Dom Records who didn’t have any artists on their roster, but were financially secured. A.G. said, “Since they didn’t have any artists, that made me a priority on the label. At the same time if I know that I’m the only artist, the label is gonna go all out to promote it.” This label must be confident in A.G.’s skills, because it has invested approximately $1 million into his project. A.G. felt, “If I would have signed with a major label I probably would have been 3rd or 4th in line, but since this a new label I’m #1 and my music has to be a priority.”
What do you think of when you hear “The Dirty Version”? Is this gonna be another album degrading women calling them all types of bitches or full of sexual content? Well I sat back and let A.G. give me his interpretation. A.G. said, “I have a production company and a record label called Get Dirty Records/The Dirty Productions. I was upset at the whole turnout of my career. I wasn’t making any records, I couldn’t get my record sold so I started looking at the whole industry from an outside point of view. What I started to see was that a lot of things started to get a little too commercial, too corporate, too mainstream. It’s good that records are selling and Hip-Hop is making a lot of money, but when I started it wasn’t making that type of money. But at the same time, the music per se, was going in a different angle than what I was used to.”
A.G. gets deep about why listeners shouldn’t sleep on “The Dirty Version. “The album is just totally universal and attracts the core audience who have supported us. From ’95 to now it was our independent singles that kept us generating money and staying afloat.” The music that A.G. puts out is geared towards the underground audience, but it doesn’t stop there. He said, “The album is for the underground, but at the same time there are components around the album that can relate to parents, a little bit towards the younger audience. We never really catered to the younger audience, but it’s important because they are the future.”
As far as sex in Hip-Hop, A.G. agrees that there is a lot of being played out in music and in videos, but offered his view. “I think sex has infiltrated everything, not just Hip-Hop. I have a “Dirty Version Video”, which includes some of the things we’ve talked about, but it’s not something that kids or just anybody can get their hands on and it’s not the video being sent out to radio and television stations.” There is a market that this video is being distributed to such as Luke’s Peep Show and Heather Hunter’s Show, but that’s a far as it’s gonna go. This is something that the publicist sends out to people directly and the clean version is what goes out to the networks. Let’s face it sex is everywhere. It appears on billboards in the heart of Manhattan, plastered on the side of a city bus, even the White House has profited from it’s sex scandals. A.G. said, “A lot of people have accepted sex to a certain extent and I don’t totally agree with sex being depicted as long as it’s in the right prospective. If it’s dealing with kids, their parents have to really guide them. As far as an adult audience, I don’t think sex is totally wrong”.
The first single from A.G.’s solo album is called “Rude Awakening”. A.G. explains how he came up with the concept. “From ’95 to now a lot of our fans were sleep and some people asked me had I retired. I wanted to do this song to wake everybody up and to let them know I’m here. It had to be a rude awakening something to shake them and wake them up and I came with a total different sound. A lot of times you get labeled and it can hurt you, but any record that I come out with is labeled as underground. That’s cool because I don’t have anything against it, I’m feeling the underground. But at the same time, that prevents you from really capitalizing on sales and units because people think that you’re directing towards one certain audience. I don’t make music for the mainstream, but I have music that can be played on mainstream radio, because it’s good music. I used to be on some hip-hop stuff and if it ain’t street hip-hop I wasn’t feeling it. Now I’ve learned to respect all types of music. If it’s put together well and that artist put in hard work, you have to give him respect due regardless if you like the music or not.”
As far as production, A.G. has some veterans and well as new cats behind this project. A.G. said, “Show came through a showed a lot of support on this album. A lot people think Show and A.G. broke up, but this happens to be a solo project and it doesn’t have anything to do with of me and Show discontinuing to work together. The Diggin’ In The Crates (“D.I.T.C.”) crew which I’m a part of and Lord Finesse, Bucwild, produced some tracks and Diamond D even rhymed on some tracks. Premier and Guru (Gangstarr), Fat Joe, Big Pun, came through and laid some verses. KRS-One, since he was coming from the Bronx, I had to get him on there, because he motivated me in my young stage. Some of the newer cats who have input on “The Dirty Version include Ghetto Dwellas, The Courtland Cartel, Headcrack and producers Wali World, D. Gritty and Ahmed. These are the new producers who basically set the format for of the hip-hop that I’m looking forward to putting out. They have some of the qualities of the old producers that I’ve worked with, but they’re younger and young are more innovative so they have a little bit more twist to what theyâ€™re doing where the mainstream can adapt to. I’m not trying to change my whole campaign and cater towards the mainstream, but at the same time as an artist on a label the bottom line is for you to sell records or you will never get an opportunity to put out another album again.”
A.G. also had a hand in the production. This was his debut as far as his album to orchestrate tracks and helped produced two songs for the album. He said, “The production I bring to the table is not like the rest of D.I.T.C. which is old loops that are hard to find that nobody can really understand.” There is a song on A.G.’s CD “Ishims” and for those who are curious about it A.G. explained, “I took Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition and did it over as “Ishims”. I spelled it that way, because I try hard not to pollute the younger people if I’m coming from my own point of view on something that I enjoy doing.” “Ishims” is basically about weed. I don’t really try to promote it, but at the same time I gotta keep it real myself and go with what I want to do. I changed the spelling so it could look different so that no one would have a clue it had anything to do with that.”
A.G. has been in the business longer than a minute and wanted to share some advice for those rappers coming up who want to get in it. “You gotta know the business before everything. Before that demo, before you meet that lawyer you gotta know there’s book out there.” He referenced Kashifa’s book “All You Gotta Know About The Music Business” and Donald Passman’s “All You Need To Know About The Music Business”. These books will let you know the break down of scenarios regarding record contracts, the type of deals relating to artists and producers. A.G. said, “When you have these books to read and understand to use as a measuring tool, when you go meet the lawyer and he tells you this is what the contract says, at least you’ll have something to compare it to. If you don’t know anything about the business and you go straight to the lawyer, whatever he tells you is what you know about the business. Sometimes that’s not good, because I had a lawyer when I signed my first contract and when I look back on it 10 years later, that was not a good contract for me. Whoever you get information from, don’t be afraid to ask questions. The person who asks the most questions at the end of the day will probably know more than anyone else. Regardless, it’s not about pride it’s about knowing your craft and knowing your business and getting compensated for that. The worse thing in the world could be having a #1 video and a top 10 song and you don’t have the money to equal that. Now you’re lifestyle is projected in a certain way and you can’t really make ends meet. Right now a lot of people are in it (the music business) saying they ain’t doing this for the money, but 5-6 years down the line you blow up and this becomes your #1 form of income, you’re gonna worry about money then.”
Currently, A.G. is one of the opening acts scheduled to perform on the Ruff Ryders/Cash Money Tour. A.G. explains how he was chosen to be a part of this upcoming event. “We have the same publicist, Angela Ellabee at Double XXposure and at the same time we tried to show them where we’re trying to go with this project. You can have a video on B.E.T. MTV and it can be dope as hell, but if they don’t know what type of support that project has, they won’t give you that much love. With the Ruff Ryders/Cash Money situation, they see the support that is going to be given to this album and they know that this is something that can support as well. We won’t just be shining on their strength, but we’re shining on our own strength.”
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