1 January, 2001@12:00 am
HHS: The Platform was a debut that was handled almost exclusively in-house. Yet, Expansion Team, includes more contributions from artists outside the Dilated family, why the change?
Rakka: Well, The Platform included allot more vocal collaborations. On the Expansion Team project Babu really stepped up his production game. The people that we always work with that are apart of our family, Joey Chavez and Alchemist, really came with it so there wasn’t really a need to go outside. But on Expansion Team we really enjoyed the process of working with the Beatminerz, Primo, or Juju just from a collaborative standpoint. It was a mutual thing when touring with these cats, or just being in the studio with them working on other projects they expressed an interest in working with us. It was definitely mutual, so when we got a chance to work with cats that bring heaters, we were happy roll with them.
HHS: With Expansion Team Dilated quite literally expanded, and recruited luminaries such as DJ Premier, Beatminerz, Juju, and ?uestlove. What was it like working with these guys?
Rakka: It was great, working with ?uestlove, he’s a real cool cat; people think were related, depending on what country I’m in people actually think I him (laughs). But it was a really cool vibe working with him. We were able to talk and he had heard “War” accapella, I performed it accapella for years before, and he already knew the vibe I was coming with. Working with Juju, were Beatnuts fans, and we’ve been able to do some shows with them at Rocksteady and out here in Southern Cali; so, when it came time to work with Juju it was already super cool. Beatminerz, that’s family, when were in NY, especially when they come out here those cats are super cool brothers. They came with “Trade Money”, which is one of my favorite joints on the record. Primo, what can you say about Primo? We had toured with Gang Starr and Rage Against The Machine and we had done allot of shows together, and whenever were at D&D that’s like his office damn near. That’s were he does all of his surgery and puts it all together. It turned out that he was in to our music for along time, and we of course have been Gang Starr fans forever. It was a great experience, Primo and Alchemist, everybody, there is not just into beatmaking, there really into production as a whole. Working with how the rhymes hit the beats and Primo takes that to another level. He (Primo) is not only one of the best producers in hip-hop; he is one of the best producers in music period.
HHS: One of the striking things about Expansion Team is that even with all of those outside contributions it still has a very unified sound. With that in mind, how did you ensure that those collaborative efforts still fit with what you wanted to accomplish, or fit your particular sound?
Rakka: I mean it just a matter of communicating within the three of us. Sitting down and deciding where we wanted to go with the record. We had allot of different ideas, last album it was more about fitting different pieces of the puzzle together. This one, we really talked about it and walked up to a canvas and painted a picture together; all three of us grabbed a brush and painted it together. It was done in a much more focused amount of time, and it was done after allot of touring. When you’re onstage your chemistry has to click, and your timing has to be good, we just kept it along the same lines. I think that went along way in making this album a real unified piece. Just working with people that really fit the mold of what we wanted to accomplish. Finding the right beats, not just hooking up with a name. When we worked with Primo, he did not just hit us with a beat-tape with three beats on it and have us pick one. We spent two-weeks in NY working with Primo, Beatminerz and Alchemist, and we had three of the four-studios at D&D locked down on any given day. We were constantly working and scrapping ideas, he (Primo) would come at us and play us beats, if we did not like them they went into the pile, and if we did we kept in moving, same with the lyrics. Production was really big and consistent and all three of us got really involved even if they were solo-tracks.
HHS: What was it like coming from the West Coast and setting up shop at the hallow-halls of D&D studios? What was the experience like, and did the D&D vibe inspire you?
Rakka: Definitely! We were able to work at D&D a little beat on The Platform for a couple of joints and get real cool with the staff. It’s a real family vibe there, and on any given day you might see Pete Rock, Freddie Foxxx, Primo, Guru, Afu-Ra, M.O.P. Beatminerz, Beatnuts. People are always floating in and out of there. It’s a real social spot where people are watching videos and smoking, whatever, but at the same time some of the most classic hip-hop records have come out of that spot. So, when you walk into a place like that where your partying, but at the same time surrounded by history and surrounded by your peers, as well as your idols to a certain extent; people you look up to, its going to affect the spirit of the record. At least for us it really got us into the vibe of it, and for that reason we went from recording a few tracks there for the last LP, to recording pretty much half of Expansion Team or more at D&D this time. We have a great time there and they treat us like family. Even though the Lakers won the Championship twice.
HHS: Looks like they will probably take it again!
Rakka: Yeah, I will probably be out for that one two, rubbing it in, rubbing it in….
HHS: Hopefully, they will be playing my team the Wizards, cause you know MJ is back, and a 38-year old MJ is still better then no MJ!!
Rakka: Mike Is Back!! I am a little afraid, but I’ll be more afraid next year! By next year they will be dangerous. But we have the three-peat coming for ya!
HHS: There are a rash of beefs infiltrating hip-hop at the moment, and you guys are no strangers to this, as you have been involved in a very public feud with Eminem. We all know that Everlast choose to use a track (“Ear Drums Pop” remix) on The Platform to voice his opinion about Eminem, did you know his verse would create so much controversy?
Rakka: No, in fact, I did not even know that verse was pertaining to Em until his lawyers, or managers, or whatever called us and asked us about it. We did not even know what the beef was about; we did not even know Everlast and Em had any problems. Everlast does not say Em’s name in the song, so for us, The Platform, was all about sharing a stage. Get out there and do what you feel like doing. If that was what he felt like that’s on him (Everlast), but we did not encourage it and he did not ask for our opinion on whether or not he should do it. He did what he felt, Em responded how he felt was necessary to respond and things got out of hand for a hot minute, but its all cool right now. Everyone is making records, touring, handling their business, and taking care of their families. Its already been squashed as far as Dilated is concerned! I don’t know about the status with Everlast, but our beef is squashed. The cats from D-12 called and speaking for themselves and for Em squashed the beef, and said everything was peace, so that’s what it is! If it was a real beef, we would have handled it a different way. Everybody would have handled it in a different way, but this was a beef that came out of a misunderstanding. So, as businessman and artists we were are able to come together and gain some clarity and not let it escalate!
HHS: Did it piss you off that Everlast choose to use one of Dilated’s tracks to diss him? He could have done it on one of his own tracks…
Rakka: I mean if that’s what was in his heart, you know. If I invite someone down to speak their mind on an LP called The Platform and they take the podium and say what they really feel and it was nothing obvious or blatant, which I don’t think that it was. Like I said, I did not even know what it was about to be honest, then there’s nothing for me to be mad at! All’s well that ends well! Em did not say anything back to us about that. I think his problem came about with us a little later, when him (Em) and Everlast had a couple of other songs back and forth about each other where our name kept coming up.
HHS: It seems like Dilated was just sucked into the middle of it.
Rakka: Yeah, you know, but that happens. If you deal with the streets allot of times you find yourself in the situation where you have to defend yourself and you did not do anything to directly cause that, but someone around you did. Sometimes you have to stand up and say “all right man I did not have anything to do with this.” But if you come directly at me then we have to protect ourselves. Were not out looking for problems, but if anything comes to us then we just have to deal with it as artists and as men; both actually. Whatever comes out of that comes out of that! But, the best thing to do is to try to resolve things peacefully and work through things. My man Montage who is down with Xzibit, and B-Real, both of those cats came in and intervened. Basically, we both have allot of common friends and family, and for us to not have beef, but to be ready to go at each other and make it hot for us in Detroit, and to make it real hot for Em in LA over a misunderstanding is just ridiculous!! Especially, when we are businessman just trying to do our thing. But the bottom line is there is no beef, real beef is real beef, what we had was a misunderstanding that got a little out of hand!
HHS: Sometimes I don’t think fans understand the word beef in hip-hop does not necessarily mean that shit is going to get physical.
Rakka: Exactly, but allot of times things that should not get to that point, can get to that point! And when they do, it could be that since I am an old-school cat, but to me beef is another thing then just having an argument!
HHS: Granted, things are now squashed, but was their total solidarity among the group in regard to Ev’s decision to respond to Eminem with “Searching For Bobby Fischer”?
Rakka: Em called out Evidence specifically, but at the same time his people had some things to say too! And we had to present a united front, but Ev wanted to handle it directly. I may not always be the person right in people’s faces, but if I’m not in the front, I’m in the back pulling some strings, or orchestrating, or lending my creative fork to whatever the issue is. It was a Dilated piece, but Ev got called out directly, for whatever the reason was, so he wanted to respond directly as a man and handle it as a man. But at the same time Em did not come alone, so I was not going to send Ev up there alone. So, Babu and I had has back on the whole situation! But it’s in the past, its part of our hip-hop history. In hindsight, I think it was handled the proper way. We defended ourselves, but when it came time for peace, we were down for peace!
HHS: “Self Defense” has a very confrontational vibe, especially your verse, should this be considered a statement track from Dilated?
Rakka: It’s a disclaimer (laughs)! You know like you put a sign on your fence that says “beware of dog”, or “beware of owner.” That’s all it was. Were not out there trying to be Billy-bad-asses, and create problems out there. But we work hard for ours, so we are definitely going to put it on the line to protect ours.
HHS: There is allot of innuendo surrounding why “Target Practice” was pulled from the LP? Can you clarify that?
Rakka: The main reason “Target Practice” was pulled from the LP was it had samples in it that the people we sampled actually sampled other people. And it was going to go into a long process of clearing samples of people who cleared samples, who cleared samples. It was going to get way out of hand. With the amount of money that we had to spend, and the amount of time we had to work with there was no way “Target Practice” was going to be cleared for this record. And there was no way we were going to put out the record without it being cleared, especially after we put it on the radar that it was popping like that! The bottom line is it had to go! There were allot of people that had an opinion that it was pulled because of the Terrorist attacks. But the bottom line is that is was pulled because of sample clearances. You can still get it, it’s very limited, but it’s floating around.
HHS: Are there solo-LP’s in the works from you, Evidence and Babu? If so, when can we expect them, and do you have any fears it will alter the group’s chemistry?
Rakka: Yes, there are solo LP’s in the works from all of us. Were not exactly sure when it is going to happen, because Dilated is our platform and our base, so we are making sure we are straight before we try to balance any other projects on top of that! So, we will definitely be building up Expansion Team with several projects from all of us. Do I think it will alter the chemistry of the group, I don’t think so at all. Ev and I have been a group for ten years now! We have been a group longer then people have been President, longer then people have been married, through the Olympics traveling all over the world. As long as we decide to stay a group, we are going to be a group. The issue with solo-songs is no different then what we deal with now. We met as solo-artists, and after Dilated projects are done, we not only continue to work on solo-projects, and work with other artists, but we support and encourage each other to do that. Because we know that whatever we go do with someone else, we are going to bring that experience, and that knowledge, those textures, and spices back to Expansion Team and Dilated. So, we have an overall bigger plan that includes solo-projects, but not as an excuse to no longer do Dilated. One of the main things that has allowed us to be a group for so long is space. We can express ourself outside of this relationship. Expansion Team just dropped so that is our priority. But this is a Peoples’ party! We rock for the people! We don’t necessarily rock for critics or journalists. We will let the people dictate who they want a solo-LP from first, but they are all in the works.
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