Proof that lyrical ability can take you far in the rap game, Ohio-bred punchline king Copywrite has gone from the subterranean exposure of Eastern Conference Records to the high-profile world of Roc-A-Fella connections and potential stardom, simply by murdering competition through battling.
At a Roc The Mic Tour on-stage battle last year, Copywrite, who had virtually been silent since the release of his acclaimed debut The High Exhaulted in 2002, ripped through his opposition to gain the notice of manager Bee High, who just happens to be the cousin of Jay-Z. From that meeting, Copywrite’s career has skyrocketed behind the scenes, earning admiration from the likes of Just Blaze, Damon Dash, and even Jigga himself.
Ready to capitalize on his God-given microphone skills, Copywrite is releasing a large-scale mixtape, Cruise Control Vol. 1, featuring production from J-Dilla and Jake One, among others. 27 tracks worth of hip-hop, Cruise Control Vol. 1 is a perfect appetizer for his official sophomore offering, currently being planned and prepped for a 2005 release. This time around, though, he’s showcasing well-rounded songwriting tactics in response to those who criticized him for being merely a one-sided trash talker. On the verge of recognition already realized by both underground and lyrical aficionados, Copywrite’s future clearly does seem to be on cruise control.
HHS: When The High Exhaulted dropped in 2002, your buzz was really picking up, but it seemed like you took a step back away from that for some reason. Why didn’t you try to capitalize on it at that time?
Copywrite: Really, I was working on my second album, and then I won that Roc The Mic battle. That kind of changed the course of what I was doing. I had all the songs written for the second album and all that, ready to put out. I wasn’t sure where I was gonna put it out through. Eastern Conference had some offers for me that we were going over or whatever, but my whole thing was that I wasn’t really happy with how The High Exhaulted was put out. It had no promotion at all. Somebody from High Times had to sneak my little album and share a page with MF Doom and all the stuff he was putting out through High Times, just to show me some love on the promotion side. Once I found out what I was gonna be doing, I decided to put out this new mixtape and the future mixtapes to tide people over until my next full-length.
HHS: How is your current relationship with Eastern Conference?
Copywrite: I’m cool with them. I’m not putting my music out through their label anymore, but I don’t have a problem with them personally.
HHS: Going into the Eastern Conference deal, were you expecting there to be much more promotion than there ended up being?
Copywrite: Yeah, I did. Everybody else on the label had promotion. Whether it was all the releases that they put out, like the High and Mighty shit, or the EC All Stars stuff, or even Cage’s album. Even after my album dropped, Tame One had promotion. I really don’t know what their deal was. I don’t know if they were trying to save money and thought it really wouldn’t help, or they thought their core audience was gonna support regardless of if they saw stickers. Whatever it was, I just wish it would have been as fairly treated as the rest of the projects on the label.
HHS: During that time, there was talk of the Weathermen project, which would have been huge if it ever came to fruition. What happened with that
Copywrite: That project never really had a strong foundation. It was more of an idea. A lot of us thought it was cool, but it wasn’t our main focus. It would have been something cool to put out to cross regions with fans. Like, a lot of Copywrite fans may not be El-P fans, and vice versa. It never really got off the ground, though.
HHS: On “That’s A Wrap,” from Cruise Control Vol. 1, you say, “I’m gonna honest y’all, I think my album could have been hotter, y’all.” Can you explain why you feel that way?
Copywrite: It was very one-sided. At that time, I didn’t give a fuck. I was just trying to show people that I could really spit. I was trying to show wittiness and all that; I wasn’t trying to put together a real solid, well-rounded album. I thought it was good for what it was, you know, for beats and rhymes. I wasn’t doing any concepts or stories then. Believe it or not, concepts and stories are sometimes easier to do than all of the shit talking.
HHS: Is that because you eventually run out of witty punchlines and metaphors?
Copywrite: Yeah, and that’s why I wanted to do that album; to basically show people that I can handle more than a hot 16 bar verse, and I could do whatever I want.
HHS: On Cruise Control Vol. 1, what angles in songwriting are you hitting on that may surprise people?
Copywrite: I got some shit on there that’s definitely showing growth from The High Exhaulted. I got a song on there called “Size 12s,” that’s speaking on the current situations of life and death. There are like three joints on it that will definitely show some topical growth. It’s 27 tracks, and half of that is songs with original beats that aren’t going to pop up anywhere else. All the J-Dilla and Jake One production on there is just for this mixtape. Basically, I’m overcompensating for my time away from the scene.
HHS: As far as J-Dilla and Jake One, how did you hook up with those two?
Copywrite: I’ve been cool with Jake One since after I dropped The High Exhaulted. That dude is crazy, man. He’s really about to blow. I talk to dudes like Just Blaze, and he’s like, “Yo, tell Jake he has my respect.” He’s sick with it. As far as J-Dilla, my manager Bee High is also his manager.
HHS: That brings me to my next question; how crazy is it having somebody like Bee High as your manager now? Not only is he Jay-Z’s cousin, but he also manages Memphis Bleek and other Roc-A-Fella artists. That’s a great look for you, going from an indy look like EC to this heavy Roc-A-Fella connection.
Copywrite: Yeah, it’s real crazy. It’s crazy to where it doesn’t hit me, and everybody around me keeps reminding me how crazy it is. Like, Jay-Z has heard my stuff and he digs it. I went to the Jay-Z and R. Kelly show, and Murda [Bleek's boy] is giving me pounds. I’ve got all people from that camp, like Ty Ty and Just Blaze, giving me real respect. It’s crazy, but at the same time, I realize that they were in this same boat at one time too, where they were getting into the game. They probably had bigger people they were looking up to giving them props.
HHS: There were rumors floating around, but was there any time when you considering signing with Roc-A-Fella?
Copywrite: I was considering it. There were some things passed back and forth from Bee High and Dame [Dash]. Really, I might already know what I’m gonna put it out with, but I want to keep all of my options open. I’d hate to close one deal and then something real nice comes about and I shut it out.
HHS: That’s smart, because, while Roc-A-Fella is a serious look, they have a history of taking real long to put albums out, if they even come out at all.
Copywrite: Any label where there are like 21 artists, you got to wonder when your slot time to drop will be. That’s what the most important thing is. I’d rather be unsigned and be able to put stuff out whenever the fuck I want, then be signed to somebody and be sitting around having to wait like two or three years for an album release. Cuz, then you got to keep jumping in and out of the studio, adding and dropping new songs, and trying to keep the album fresh.
HHS: What is the philosophy behind your own label, Odot Records?
Copywrite: Odot Records is strictly for mixtapes and my crew projects. If another member of Odot wants to put out an album or an EP, they don’t have to go outside of the camp to do so. That’s the only reason why I got that set up.
HHS: Now, on to your next official album. How is that coming along?
Copywrite: I’m looking at a 2005 release for it. I’m definitely gonna be working with Jake One on it. I know I’m gonna be doing some stuff with Just Blaze. I might fuck with J-Zone, and I gotta get one from RJD2. As far as new producers, anybody who has hot stuff, I’m down to work with them, too. I don’t go through beat tapes with a preconceived notion of what I want to hear. I keep my ears open to whatever can take me off guard.
HHS: As far as shit talking and battle raps go, you’re easily one of the game’s craziest, and most slept-on, at it. How often do you battle?
Copywrite: It all depends on how much time I have. I haven’t had time recently to do that too much. The only reason I got into that Roc The Mic battle was because my boys signed me up for it, and there was something at stake that really drove me to give a fuck about it. I’m more prone to battle somebody outside of a grocery store or something like that, rather than go to an open mic. At open mics, you got people there that know your whole shit and every record you’ve put out. They’re gonna come with all pre-written lines about you about your whole history, cuz they’re basically fans trying to turn things against you. They’ve got a lot more to gain than I do, too. If I win, I don’t get anything out of it, but if they do, they can run around and say that they beat Copywrite. I’m more prone to battle somebody outside of like a Best Buy, who really doesn’t know my shit. Then, I’m gonna have fun with it.
HHS: Now, while people like Just Blaze and Jay-Z are giving you respect, what do you think it’s going to take for the average rap fan to acknowledge you?
Copywrite: I think it will either have to be when the next full-length drops, or even right before that album drops. I’m gonna have some tight mixtapes coming out after Cruise Control. I got a mixtape I’m about to do with just Saigon, Sha Stimuli, and myself that’s in the works right now. We’re trying to have that done in like a month. It’s something that Bee High hooked up. So, I’m just trying to bombard the market. I want to get things warmed up before the next official album drops.
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