HipHopSite.com: This Army of the Pharaohs album has been talked about for years, so how does it finally feel to get it accomplished when some didn’t think it would ever come out?
Vinnie Paz: Yeah, it feels good man. It was hard because every time we wanted to make it everyone else was working on their own projects. When Apathy first got signed to Atlantic it was a big deal, so we finally had to sit down and say, “Either we are going to do this, or we’re not.” So it feels really good because its been eight years in the making.
Esoteric: Its feels good man. It came to fruition and its an exciting thing. It’s a different record than what was going to materialize in the late 90′s and early 2000. The crew has expanded, as some members have left, but it feels great to finally get this album completed. Its been a long time coming.
HipHopSite.com: The group has undergone a lot of changes since its conception. So who was the original crew comprised of for those who may not be up on the Pharaoh’s history?
Vinnie Paz: Initially it was Jedi Mind, Bahamedia, Chief Kamachi, 7L & Esoteric and Virtuoso. That was the crew on the original 12-inch.
HipHopSite.com: What happened to Virtuoso and Bahamedia?
Vinnie Paz: The core of the group has remained the same. Baham is just doing her thing and its still mad love. The same with Virtuoso. As you get older you start to focus on your own project, so the by the time we were really ready to record this album things had changed. Everyone who is in the crew now is a personal friend. Even back then, Apathy was always involved but he wasn’t on that 12-inch, and the same with Celph Titled. It was just a natural evolution, that’s how the group progressed over the years.
HipHopSite.com: Eso, with you being in the original crew, was there ever a point when you believed this album would never happen?
Esoteric: Oh, definitely. Its crazy because there would be records like Jedi Mind’s “Animal Rap” and our “Watch Me” song, and those beats were intended for our Pharaohes album. So as we kept wrapping up our albums and JMT was wrapping up theirs, it kept looking like the Pharaohes album was getting less and less attention. Because its so hard to round everybody up since we all have our own careers. Finally, once Babygrande made an offer, we were able to buckle down and make a good record.
HipHopSite.com: With so many members, what are some of the struggles you faced in putting this record together?
Vinnie Paz: It’s been real difficult. Celph is in Florida, a bunch of us are in Philly, 7L & Eso are in Boston, Apathy is back and forth between Connecticut and New York – so its been real chaotic. A lot of the producers on this record are from Europe as well. We have a kid who’s of Korea and he did the lead single, so its been real crazy. The distance wasn’t the only problem, as there was language problems with the producers as well. My man Shuko from Germany did beats, this kid Rain from Austria, White Shadow of Norway, so its been a fucking headache man. We just wanted to get it done because we felt the fans have been waiting for so long. So yeah, its was fucked up. (Chuckles) But it came out real good and we are all proud of it.
Esoteric: Vinnie was pretty much in charge of stuff in Philly and I was in charge of stuff elsewhere. Tracks that were produced by 7L, DC or Beyonder, those were the tracks that I oversaw. Stuff that was produced by other dudes like Shuko were put together in Philly with Vinnie overseeing things. There had to be a couple people planning stuff out since its such a big project. It wasn’t like it was back in the late 90′s where we were all in the same basement.
HipHopSite.com: Were there any creative clashes while putting this record together?
Esoteric: I think everybody put their egos to the side and a strong portion of the record is dedicated to the stuff that all of us can come to an agreement. The raw battle lyrics is something we are all good at. Nobody is going to want to hear a song about a girl on an AOTP record, so we kept it hardcore lyrically with lots of creative 16′s.
HipHopSite.com: I haven’t seen the production credits yet, so what American based producers do you have on the album? Is Stoupe doing anything?
Vinnie Paz: Na, Stoupe didn’t do anything, he’s been working on his producer record. That was the plan from the beginning, when I went off to do this Pharaoh’s record he would work on that. But 7L did a bunch of beats, Celph and Apathy did a beat each and I think that’s it from the states. Because we had been touring in Europe so much this year – we were there two or three times – and people were always giving us beats. And people always do that but a lot of these kids had heat. So we didn’t really care if they had a big name, we just wanted good beats.
HipHopSite.com: Yeah, cause the lead single has that Stoupe vibe, so you can’t really tell.
Vinnie Paz: Yeah, yeah, we were just really looking for grimy shit.
HipHopSite.com: When I talked to you for the site when the last Jedi Mind album came out you were telling me about Stoupe’s side projects. You said he was working on that producer project you mentioned, as well as an album with some singer. Is he still working on that other album as well?
Vinnie Paz: Yeah, he’s still working on that. (Laughter) His process is a lot different than mine. He is a perfectionist. We will record a bunch of stuff or do a bunch of beats and he’ll decide he hates them and throws them all out. But he’s been doing those projects and now we started to record some stuff for the new Jedi record, so his albums are probably going to be on hold again until we finish this new album.
HipHopSite.com: What was the recording process like for this Pharaohes album? Did everyone just send their verses in or was their material being created in the studio together?
Vinnie Paz: Pretty much half and half. If we happened to be in the same city together then it worked out that way. Some songs were recorded together but the verses were redone and sent through computer. I’m a computer retard, so I was taken out of that process. But my man Yan, who is our manager, he really helped us with that. So some of the songs we did together and others were just pieced together.
HipHopSite.com: What is the vibe of this album? Is it heavy on the battle tip?
Vinnie Paz: Yeah, there is really only a couple concept joints. We were concentrating on making it sound like an early or mid 90′s record – a throwback album. This album is heavily influenced on other crew albums like the Juice Crew and The Wu.
HipHopSite.com: What are some of those few concepts on the album?
Vinnie Paz: There is a song called “In The Arms of Angels,” and its me, Crypt (Outerspace) & Faez One, and we are telling three different stories about struggle. Faez is talking about the struggle of raising his child, Crypt is talking about the struggle of having a family and trying to do this rap shit, and my verse is about me loosing my father in the late 80′s. Its some deep shit. We didn’t go there a lot of times because we didn’t want to hit people over the head with too many concept records because this is a crew record. We just wanted to give them the raw shit. There is some other political and anti-Bush shit on there as well.
HipHopSite.com: Since not everybody was in the studio together its kind of impossible to make a lot of concept tracks anyway – right?
Vinnie Paz: Yeah, absolutely. With that track in particular, we are all from Philly so it was easy to do that. We all chill outside of this music thing. But you are right, if this was a concept heavy record it would have been a lot harder to do.
HipHopSite.com: How is the distribution of emcees featured on the album? Is anyone featured more heavily than others?
Vinnie Paz: In terms of all of us, everyone is on the record a lot. Off the top of my head, its evenly distributed. We tried to let everyone get their equal shine.
Esoteric: Yeah, I think I’m on about six tracks – but honestly I don’t know. So its definitely a balanced situation. I think Vinnie its on it the most, whether is a hook or a verse. He’s definitely the most iconic member of the group who sells the most records.
HipHopSite.com: Yeah, because sometimes on crew records you’ll have one emcee only featured on like two tracks, so that’s why I was asking.
Vinnie Paz: Right, right – we tried to stay away from that Everyone is on at least four tracks.
HipHipSite.com: Overall, this seems like an album geared toward your hardcore fans.
Vinnie Paz: Yeah, that is the best way to describe it. We just made a group record like the Juice Crew or Wu-Tang for our hardcore fans.
Esoteric: I would definitely say that is true. Anyone who is getting this album is going to be excited with the final product. Everybody put forth an A-plus effort and I’m really happy with it. We don’t compromise our music so people know what to expect.
HipHopSite.com: What’s the current status on the next Jedi Mind Tricks album?
Vinnie Paz: We have been working on it and we have some joints done already. I just did a song with my man R.A. The Rugged Man and its about Vietnam. It came out crazy. I did a bunch of solo tracks as well. You are actually the first person to know the title of the album – its called Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell.
HipHopSite.com: I know its early, but how’s the vibe of these tracks in comparison to your pervious albums?
Vinnie Paz: Its real real dark. Literally, every song we have done is real dark. I don’t know if that is going to change or not, but everything Stoupe has made is real dark.
HipHopSite.com: When should we expect to see the album?
Vinnie Paz: Probably in the fall of this year – probably September.
HipHopSite.com: I know you and Jus Allah squashed everything. So is he going to be on the album?
Vinnie Paz: I don’t know yet but I would like for him to be on it. As far as any beef or anything, that is dead. We talked and squashed everything – as far as personal shit. Creatively, I would love for him to be on the record. So we’ll see what happens.
HipHopSite.com: What brought about the sit down to squash everything?
Vinnie Paz: I think just growing up. Its not really a complicated story and no one thing really happened to bring about the sit down. We were friends before the music shit so when we squashed it, I was more concerned with squashing it from a personal level. We just felt like we had to dead it and go on.
HipHopSite.com: I remember 3 or 4 years ago the underground scene was really booming. I’m not gonna name any names, but you had tons of groups and artists releasing amazing material. And maybe its just me, but it seems as if that movement has really died down the past year and the quality of underground releases isn’t the same. Do you think this is true and if so, why?
Vinnie Paz: I guess I’m not sure because I really don’t follow it as much as I should. There was definitely like a boom about four or five years back. So there was a boom with a lot of quality stuff and after that everyone started thinking they could be an emcee. So after all them good records, a lot of bad ones were released. After that, the fans started to become a little leery on purchasing things. When we were younger you knew what you were buying was dope, but now there is so much garbage. Also, now everyone feels they should be a rapper. When I was in Cali someone asked me what was wrong with rap and I told them that there are no fans anymore. Everyone is something nowadays. Everyone comes up to you after the show and they are either a rapper, a DJ, a producer or a promoter. There are no fans anymore who just listen to the music. Everyone feels they should be doing something and it wasn’t like that when I was coming up.
Esoteric: Yeah, I definitely think that is true. It sounds conceited, but I’m just not excited with the Hip-Hop that I hear nowadays. I guess a lot of people say that though. But at this point, I feel like I’ve heard and seen it all. I’ve heard every way to flip this type of a punch line or this type of a sample. You hear it over and over and it gets old. Its like when 50′s album first dropped everyone loved it. But if I hear any more 50 now I’m gonna blow my brains out. I just can’t stand it anymore. The entire industry is oversaturated. And just using him as an example right there, I should be using somebody better but he’s the first person that comes to mind because of his impact.
HipHopSite.com: Do you think a lot of people are afraid to be fans nowadays because they might get labeled as being a groupie?
Vinnie Paz: Absolutely! Everything you just said is how I feel now. Everybody misinterprets showing love as some groupie shit. But when I was a kid it wasn’t like that. You told someone you feel their shit, gave them a pound and kept it moving. But now everyone thinks they can rap and make beats so they don’t want to come off as a fan.
HipHopSite.com: I saw you had a concert with Krs-One recently, how was it rocking with him?
Vinnie Paz: It was crazy man! It was sold out. It was obviously an honor to do a concert with Krs, as he was one of my heroes. We both did really good shows and of course, he’s the “teacha” so he ripped it.
HipHopSite.com: What’s going on with the next 7L & Eso album?
Esoteric: Actually, as you called, I was just putting on the finishing touches for our promo copies. So the album is all finished – we finished it yesterday – and we are very very happy with it. It is in a different direction than DC2. We feel like our prior records were one stream of consciousness and this is going in a different direction. Its exciting for us to be putting something out that people haven’t heard before. And the album is called A New Dope and is coming out on May 23rd.
HipHopSite.com: How is the album going to be different?
Esoteric: I think that is something that each individual listener will have to determine on their own. I tried to put it into words for the label and to other friends, but I really can’t. Its not so much on the battle tip, because I got a lot of that stuff out of my system on the AOTP record and my solo album which I’m working on. But this 7L & Eso album has a lot of conceptual joints and the beats definitely vary in tempo. Its just stuff that people wouldn’t really expect from us. There are no guest appearances, except for Kool Keith, which is a rare situation for us.
HipHopSite.com: Overall, tell us your vision for the future?
Vinnie Paz: I don’t know man; I don’t want to be one of these people who falls off, so me and Stoupe try to keep our swords sharp. I’m still relatively young, so I would like to keep making records for a long time. This is all I really know and this is our lively hood. So in terms of my vision, I really don’t want anything to change. I want to keep recording music, putting out records and go on tour. Whether it remains on this level of doing sixty or seventy thousand records or going gold, its all a blessing. We don’t have to work real jobs and are blessed to do this as a living. So as long as I can continue to do that I’m happy.
Esoteric: The main thing right now is the AOTP record and A New Dope. I also have a solo record coming out after that, but its very tentative, as far as when its going to drop. We also have the Demigodz album in the works as well.
HipHopSite.com: I heard you guys got about six songs or something like that for the Demigodz album already done – correct?
Esoteric: Yeah, I’m pretty sure. I know we have a few done. That is another project that could be looked at like the AOTP one. It could get banged out as quickly as this AOTP album though. Because once we got down to it the AOTP album got done quickly. Its not like you have to write three 16′s just to get one song done. It just took awhile to get everybody on the same page.
HipHopSite.com: Say a major label came hollering, would you take that chance on the next level? Especially seeing what’s going on with Apathy at Atlantic or Little Brother not selling any units? Would you welcome that challenge or stay underground?
Vinnie Paz: Well, that’s the thing, the operative word is challenge. If you get that opportunity you have to challenge yourself and analyze whether you think you can successfully do this. It hasn’t been done in a long time. Cypress and Wu-Tang – the early 90′s – was the last time some legitimate grimy shit was selling. Everything goes in cycles in music. So I think some people are waiting for that grimy music to come back and maybe we are the ones to do it.
HipHopSite.com: Any last words?
Vinnie Paz: I just appreciate you guys always letting me speak my mind, its always love. The AOTP record comes out March 21st – Torture Papers. New Jedi Mind tricks album – Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell – Fall ’06. We will be touring everywhere after that.
Esoteric: Na, that’s about it. I’m just looking forward to people enjoying these records that we got coming down the pipeline.
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