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by J. Butters
20 May, 2003@12:00 am
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Tell me about the new Hit Squad?

Well the new Hit Squad is PMD, Don Fuquan who’s from the lower east side in Manhattan, and 275 are from Dayton Ohio. All my groups that I work with I ran into them on the road while I was doing a show. So what’s special is that I was off for a while so I was really home in the hood and all the artists that I am working with now were brought to me by cats in the street that had respect. [They were] like yo P when you rocking and when you are doing your album here are some cats that are dope and I took it from there.

What do you feel they bring to the table emcee wise and what do you feel they were able to add to the album?

I felt that they added energy, they brought their skills, they brought their street awareness of what’s going on out there in the street right now and they really actually believe what they were rapping about because they were basically rapping about life. It’s not like this album is industry influenced. These cats was really there so they are rhyming from the standpoint of I’m not out here for a chain or a car I’m really trying to get in the game and be here for ten or fifteen years.

Do you feel your die hard fans will embrace them knowing the history of the Hit Squad?

Yea I think so. To be honest with you my whole point is that this is on my own label, its independent, [and] its different now. I showed you the Hit Squad, the first squad of all squads, and now its like the game has changed and it’s getting out of the hands of the people and going to more corporate politics. My whole point is to not come from an artist point of view, all my artists have their own label, we are coming with a new era. You’re not an artist, we’re not gonna get 500,000 for a budget, we’re going to do this ourselves. We’re going to do a joint venture and then you’re gonna put your album out. That’s the way I’m showing them. So as opposed to having to stress selling a gold or platinum album if you sell 50,000 you’re doing good if you sell 100,000 you really came off.

For you personally “The Awakening” is your 3rd solo album, but first since EPMD has gotten back together why did you feel it was necessary to still do solo albums and not have more focus on the group?

Well because one Erick is wrapping up Keith Murray’s album right now, he is coming out July 15th and also our situation with J Records. EPMD is more or less a street group. The way it’s set up with J [is that] Clive has a lot of vision, but it’s up for the actual record company or indy that’s signed to him to have the street team and everything set up. So to make a long story short we’re not even on J Records anymore we just signed our release. Right now EPMD’s situation is working out which distribution we’re gonna rock with.

On the album you speak a lot about being a pioneer in the game and hiphop seems to be one of the few cultures where a lot of people don’t fully appreciate or understand its history and what others have contributed to it. Why do you feel that is and why do you think that we don’t celebrate our pioneers more?

The object of the game is to keep the artist blind so by the time an artist’s career runs out he has no say so. So when his album is out he is out there promoting and the people in the record company are actually doing the office work. They don’t get their recognition because this is a fast moving industry. Before you had Big Daddy Kane and he was different from Slick Rick, Run DMC was different from Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, we were different from the next group, now in today’s era it’s basically we need you to sound exactly like him, look like him, and dress like him. There’s no individuality or originality in the game, so these guys running out here and don’t even have the knowledge. When we came in we came in off of Run, but then they had groups that go back to Bambaataa and Bambaataa had groups that go back to Kool Herc. Now after EPMD broke up it was just a foundation with a whole bunch of money there and cats without the information, whereas when we came in no matter how fly we wanted to get we had Russell checking us, we had Chuck D checking us, we had Run, D, and J checking us. These guys are just getting a chunk of money, they mad at the world and they don’t understand that in a couple years they are gonna pay for this.

What do you think could be done in the industry to change this type of behavior?

I think to give them a voice, not just some 30 second [spot] or a night interview on a mixshow. I been around people who are happy if they sell 30,000 records. The object of the game is when an artist is 50 or 60 he should still be ok not [just] in here 1 or 2 years. The only way to do that is to show them the real which the industry is not going to teach them because they make money by you being ignorant. Perfect example if you are on an independent label, let’s take David Banner. He went out there and sold 40,000 records he made his money off of that. $40K x $8=$320K that’s what he did from his independent label, but that’s one move. Off of that next move a major will call you and give you seven digits to take it to the next level because they seen what you did without them. There is a big difference between doing it that way and going to get $500,000 and it’s either you happen or you don’t, you put out a single and it’s either you happen or you don’t. There’s no longevity in that, that’s why most artists from my era are getting back on top of their game because they have learned. Now the era that’s here now in five to seven years, you know how the game go, the same cats that you see rocking right now you gonna see them on the street and be like nah. I was talking to one of my boys they was like 50 cent has changed the game. What he did was do all of those mixtapes and bust his ass on the ground level so when the lit came to him he was prepared. [Now] the industry is like oh ok we get it no more big deals just P&D. That’s where you do all the work show them that you can do it and then they hit you off. Now you have to work to get the check instead of just coming in off of hype.

Being that you are so accomplished in your career what do you have to prove (if anything) and what motivates you to keep doing records?

Well my family keeps me going. I’m from a family of seven so a lot of them watch me and they feed off of me. Then off of that family I have nieces and nephews that’s watching. I can give them two looks the look like I made it and I’m that or I can be out here on the grind. I keep it real, when I hang up the phone and go home my moms is sitting there right at the table and there is stress on her face. The older brother is sick with the HIV, the younger brother doesn’t have any direction or whatever and the sister has three kids and I’m her go to man. So before when I was doing all the music and stuff we wasn’t really communicating like that until my success broke her down and put her in the hospital. So now when you come out things still move the same way for the simple fact that people think my life is one way when it’s different. My mother’s day started at 6:30 in the morning with the U.S Marshalls in her house without a search warrant looking for my sister’s boyfriend. So no matter if you out here doing your thing you know where your heart and your mind is. For me this is not about selling records or soundscan, this is about mastering the last piece. I made money for Sleeping Bag [Records], I made money for Def Jam, I made money for Atlantic Records and Elektra and a lot of kids followed. Kids had the opportunity to use different beats to blow up, but they chose to use EPMD tracks. Crews had the opportunity to come up with different names, but I (put together) the first squad of all squads and I walked away from the game because I wasn’t feeling the direction of where people was taking it. It wasn’t like I had a Bad Boy to look at or a Death Row to look at or a Flipmode Squad to look at, there was nobody here so I based my decisions on that. I left it straight up and in a positive state and then the next people who came behind me didn’t do that, they went for the cash and took it where it is now. My point is look at all the squads that followed me after that, Flipmode Squad, Def Squad, Terror Squad, Firing Squad so I left a mark here. I taught em business, but I left one out. I made the money for all these other people [now] my last thing is to try to get these kids to understand you don’t have to try and sell a gold record. When its supposed to come to you it’s gonna come just be prepared. What you should try to do is learn how to be a real independent label as opposed to running to somebody else, them charging you with the big word recoup and at the end you be ass broke in two years and nobody hears about you and nobody thinks about you. Plug in. Get your computer, get your website talk to them. Most people try to get something to people I already did it. But for this last run I got a younger brother who got a crew they trying to get there and they are trying to learn and I’m like damn this is messed up we didn’t have to go thru this. All we had to do is have the incentive, the music, the drive and have people like Russell and them there. These cats don’t even have no one showing them how to make wax. So this is not about The Awakening this is about learning independent, about getting distribution, knowing how to talk to The Source and XXL and really run your business and then be able to go back to your community hire people. Take your time [and] slow your roll so you don’t have to run out there and try to get that cash because the majors are closing their doors. And I’m the one that made them open it. I’m not trying to get cocky, but when Das Efx came thru with the bum skiddy bum that’s when they started opening the checks up two million sold. I came thru we got a little budget, $175K, but it took that to make the record. The object of the game is to be able to run your label and still be able to not sacrifice your artistic point of view.

So the title The Awakening is symbolic for all artists doing business to wake up and not the fact that you feel you’re being slept on.

Yea no question because I went to the real world for 11 years since ’92. No matter what you were hearing I was in the real world. I was home cooling. I had a partner out here so I could do that. I know the game so well from Strictly Business; go home re-up. I did it too many times to not know how to get here. So now I’m here and ain’t nothing changed. That’s why there are songs like “So What Cha Saying.” That’s why they exist you’re supposed to act like this and I’m supposed to say “You Got’s To Chill”, “So What Cha Saying”, “I’m on a Rampage”, now “I’m Mad”. I told you to watch out for the “Gold Diggers”, [and] don’t “Crossover” [but] they done crossed over and lost they mind. Eminem is the only one not crossing over, speaking to hip-hop and letting the people know what’s going on and they still having problems when the only objective in hiphop was for it to not be a fad and to try and spread it as far as it could go.

You and E both have mentioned that you got back together in part because of slain artists in hiphop. How do you feel your continuance in hiphop carries on the memories of people like Big L, Biggie, Pac, Jam Master J, etc?

Well, I got my shell toes on right now I see Jam Master Jay’s face very clearly and its definitely on and that effects me. Because of who I am its not like I [just] think this. My friends and family called me up to make sure I was alright. You can’t let there struggle die in vain. It ain’t about roses for a week and then it’s dead and done. You can’t save the world, but you can teach them by your work ethics. That’s why there were so many groups. I let off like four groups in one year. We were the first ones dealing with money, we were the first ones out there really on the front line like “yo don’t go to no independent no more form your own crew and clique and just do the damn thing”. But then there was a price with that as you look around. The artists don’t know enough about the world they living in [and] that’s why they having these problems. That’s why I put my mic down and [said] let me go learn about this world I live in before I come back again. That’s why this is The Awakening. I already know EPMD is there, but let me really do an independent label, let me sell 30,000 or 40,000. There are so many people out here that are so dope, need jobs, and want to be apart of something. That’s the whole point of this it ain’t about me being large. I’m not a selfish person or Das Efx or Red would not exist. Now the game is screwed up [so if] ya’ll want to do it then I’m gonna put it out there for ya’ll to see it.

Do you feel that your relationship with E is stronger now after you broke up?

On this one coming, but we definitely didn’t get that on Back to Business or Out Of Business. There was just too many politics. Before there was nobody watching us so we got to do what we got to do and then once people got onto us after “So What Cha Saying” you really didn’t know who was who. Everyone had their own motives which just took away from the love of the music.

So do you feel this is the first real EPMD album since you guys got back together?

By far and me and Erick talk about this we be like man we just did music and rapped on that, we ain’t show up. It didn’t make no sense to come Back in Business to go Out of Business that right there look at that. Haha

A lot of people were sad when you guys broke up did that surprise you that you had that much of an effect on the fans?

From my standpoint it wasn’t like I was getting any help from anyone. I was out there on a 40 city tour that I had to get off of and make sure all the artists were straight. I was definitely riding with my fans, but I already went as far as I could go before I burnt myself out. I had to get my stuff together. I took it there, I dropped Das Efx they got theres, dropped EPMD, dropped Redman and dropped K-Solo and after that I didn’t have no help so I was like you know what I love the game and I love myself so I’ll be back another day. I left my mark. Now it’s on. Before I just gave Sleeping Bag the album, gave Def Jam the album, now I’m holding mine. It ain’t about business, it ain’t about money, its just the right thing follow your spirit and see where it leads.

What can we expect on the new EPMD album (We Mean Business)?

First we got a more open mind and listened to the people around us. The last two albums we didn’t listen to none of our albums we just went and did those two. Now it’s like we gotta listen to Strictly Business, gotta listen to Unfinished, gotta slow down. Now we’re listening and what we’re realizing is that the original format is something we already know how to do. So now instead of you do 16 and I do 16 [or] you do 8 and 8 it ain’t working like that. Now it’s tossing it back and listening to the song and saying yo what would sound here dope. Last time Erick and I were working we were doing our tracks separately whereas before on the first album we would probably do it together.

Do you feel it took two albums to just get the chemistry back?

No, I think it took two albums for us to get comfortable with each other again after being apart for five years. In between its not like we had time to rest he was doing his stuff I was doing my stuff. Now it’s like hold up Erick and Parrish, We Mean Business.

What other projects do you have planned?

I’m gonna be on Soul Survivor 2 (Pete Rock). I did a song with Prodigy and Noyd called First Infantry that’s off the hook. I just did a song with Cormega. I got my group with Don Fuquan and 275, we’re doing the indy thing to have fun. We’re doing our promo tour in two weeks, we going to Cali after that and going overseas after that. The website (www.pmdhitsquad.com) will be up in a few weeks. The Awakening (PMD solo album) will be out June 17th.

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