Ugly Duckling is a rarity in today’s hip-hop world. The California—-based group, comprised of emcees Dizzy Dustin and Andy Cooper and DJ Young Einstein—–are not scared to show their more humourous side while spitting rhymes about everything from their struggle to get a record deal to smacking fake emcees to slowing down long enough to enjoy the finer things in life. With a new album (Bang for the Buck) due in April, Dizzy and Andy took a moment to chat with Hiphopsite about their new record label Fat Beats, the fun that’s left hip-hop and who really won their dual of the mic.
HipHopSite.com: For those that don’t know, what label were you on previously and why did you swich over to Fat Beats?
Dizzy Dustin: The last album we did was on Emperor Norton. But now it’s Fat Beats.
HHS: How long have you been with Fat Beats?
Dizzy Dustin: Actually, we just finished the deal up a couple of months. So we’re looking forward to being on an hip-hop label. This is the first time we’ve actually been on an all hip-hop label. So that feels good for us.
HHS: So the reason you went to Fat Beats was because it was hip-hop oriented?
Dizzy Dustin: I think so because every label we’ve been on is like Dance, a Euro-type of sound that was coming out. With Fat Beats they came at us. They know we could sell. We’ve proven ourselves in the last few albums with our fan base as far as the underground scene.
Andy Cooper: They were really adamant about wanting to work with us and that’s our first priority, is finding people who just are excited about the project. You’d be surprised after so many years of doing this how important that is. Just pure enthusiasm.
And even sometimes you might get offered a deal that’s more lucrative, but the people there don’t understand the project and aren’t excited about it. And you might get offered something that’s not quite so fancy, but the people there understand the music or just have a real drive in them long term. That’s what’s most important, we found. Everybody with whom we do business now, what we do is make our records and license it out to different labels around the world and our first thing is looking for people who are enthusiastic about our music.
HHS: So obviously they supported you guys and decided to take you under their wing?
Andy Cooper: Yea. I mean one way to do business is just look at the bottom line and take what offers the most money. For example you might get offered two shows, one for 100 bucks, one for 1,000 bucks. But the $100 show is going to be right in the core of your audience. There’s going to be a big crowd there and there’s going to be other great hip-hop groups and it’s going to be a real event. And the $1000 thing is going to be very corporate and it’s maybe a rave and it’s not your fan base.
So, a lot of times it’s wise to opt for the lower paid one because in the long term, those are the people who are gonna support you and it’s better to be in touch with them and it will even be more profitable in the long term because you’ll have a relationship with those folks.
HHS: It definitely sounds like a good look for you.
Dizzy Dustin: We’ll see. It’s all up in the air man. My thing is the proof is in the pudding. Treat us right, we’ll treat you right. It seems like everybody at Fat Beats is really excited about the album and that’s something we haven’t really had. So that’s a good thing.
Andy Cooper: We’ll see how it goes. It’s always interesting when you start a new relationship.
HHS: What’s the difference between Taste the Secret, your last album, and your new album, Bang for the Buck?
Andy Cooper: Well, I think one’s a concept record. Honestly, I was kind of in charge of the last album and I wanted a real cinematic album, with themes and commercials and skits so you could sit down and picture the album in your mind, picture the characters like a giant Broadway review or something. Whereas, this album, we just wanted to do some great hip-hop songs. I mean, we thought we had some cool hip-hop songs on the last album, but we kind of blanketed them in between a bunch of skits and what not. Bang for the Buck is straightforward, straight up stuff.
Dizzy Dustin: It’s one of those things, like you just want to come out throwing punches. Ugly Ducking, we ain’t no hardcore gangsta group, but we’re gonna come out and have fun with it, clown around and, you know, pull out our water pistols and get rid of all these jiggy rappers. That was our whole idea…And you better have a waterproof jacket because we’re gonna wet you up (laughs). It’s one of those things. They bring out their guns, We’ll bring out the water guns. That’s as far it goes with us. No bulletproof vests, but just a waterproof jacket will work fine. That’s it man. We’re super soaking ‘em , man.
HHS: Your music has a fun vibe to it. Bottom line, you aren’t afraid to smile. When did it begin to get so serious in hip-hop?
Dizzy Dustin: It’s hard to say man.
It got serious to me when Public Enemy dropped the Nation. I mean ‘Hey, you know what. That’s a hot album,’ but at the same time it was hip-hop and it woke us up. It wasn’t negative. It was more positive. And nowadays, these groups are coming out on the negativity tip, but they’re not preaching something that really means anything. Public Enemy, they let you know. You came out with an album like ‘Shit is fucked up right now,’ you know. But it was a positive vibe and it was still serious. And there’s no one like that no more. Everybody’s like â€˜Hey, I’m a negative dude. I’mma shoot everybody around me. I’mma run my block. I’m gonna run the neighborhood, blah, blah, blah,’ but no message. You can’t be serious without a message in hip-hop. It ain’t like that no more. No one’s spitting the truth.
Andy Cooper: Well I would say like around the mid-’90s…I blame a lot of things on The Chronic. Not that The Chronic is a bad album, the original Chronic, but what happened is they figured out a way to make gangster and violent rap commercial radio-friendly and commercial radio came around to rap. So all of a sudden, rap could be on the radio. And that made sales go up, I’m sure, for some of those groups. Fifty, 100 percent. So it just changed the whole artistic style of the music because before, even if you wanted to be on the radio, it just wasn’t a option so noone even bothered really trying that stuff. In fact, if you did, people kind of made fun of you and called you an R&B sellout and all that kind of thing. So I’d say with The Chronic. With Cypress Hill. With House of Pain. Those groups all started getting on the radio a little bit. So I think once the radio and mainstream MTV started playing rap videos, it just changed everything.
HHS: One of the songs I liked off the new CD liked was “Slow the Flow”, a song that basically says slow down and appreciate life. Do you feel that society nowadays has gotten too fast-paced?
Dizzy Dustin: I think so. I think everybody’s got their eye on the prize, which is a good thing. Everybody’s trying to hustle. Everybody’s trying to see what they have to do. But at the same time, sometimes you got to stop, stand back and smell the roses or take a deep, fresh breath and be able to be like ‘You know what. Life ain’t that bad.’ We’re only here for so long. Just enjoy life around you. I think that people need to really take a look at what’s important in their life and you’re job ain’t really that important. It’s just something to get by and at the same time there’s a lot more important things in the world than you sitting at your job or desk and busting your ass for eight hours a day. The world offers a lot more than that. Especially on the West Coast. That’s what we wanted with that song. To make sure everyone can relax a little bit.
HHS: How did the collaboration with People Under the Stairs come about for the track “Shoot Your Shot”?
Dizzy Dustin: We’ve been working with People Under the Stairs for a long time. Our first Cali tour that we did on the West Coast was with People Under the Stairs. We’ve known each other for a long time and we would always discuss on the road or on shows like ‘Yo, ‘Scenario’ was the joint. Remember Tribe Called Quest and Leaders did that, that was the joint.’ So we wanted to try to capture that with us. Like OK, People Under the Stairs, Ugly Duckling. Let’s do something we can collab on and just knock it out the box. And I think that song came out real well. People are lovin it. I’m lovin it. It was just one of those things. Like ‘Hey we’re all from LA. You produce like we produce. We have the same beliefs in hip-hop and the culture as far sampling, as far as digging as far as lyrics. It was due. And we ship the same fan base so the fans were like ‘Hey. That’s the joint. Thank God you guys finally did something together.’”
Andy Cooper: We’re not much of a collaboration group. We always want to stand on our own feet, produce it. Just have our own sound…We discussed it lightly with those guys a long time. And to be honest, Diz and I were working on a song for that track and it was really stupid. It was called “Buzz Off” and it was gonna be a song about people bothering you. Almost like “Bug-A-Boo” by Ed OG. People were bugs and they were all….and we kept working on it and working on it and one day we said â€˜Man, this sucks’. And Diz was like â€˜Yea this was really a bad idea. And it was getting late and really had to record our stuff pretty soon so it was like â€˜let’s call People Under the Stairs. Let’s do a posse song.’ So we knew that would probably be easier to do. So a lot of it was the result of us coming up with a stupid idea and thankfully, it didn’t work out or else we would’ve had a really wack track on the album. We had a whole thing. We had a bug voice like he was going to be bugging you. It was really stupid. Really, really bad. Thank the Lord that that didn’t happen.
HHS: You two battle it out on the track, “Andy vs. Dizzy.” So who won?
Andy Cooper: Well, that’s the cool part. It depends on which style you like. For that track, I wanted to be like Kool G. Rap or Big Daddy Kane. Like real slashing and cutting and up tempo funk. And Diz is sometimes a little more laid back and almost like Dizzy Smalls. More like in the cut and a little bit slower and slicker. I would personally go with my style, but that’s because I like it more and that’s why I do it. But you know it depends on what you like. Some people don’t like all that up tempo, hype stuff. To me, rap is rhythm and poetry. And rhythm is a huge part of it. I like different rhythmic schemes and rhyme schemes and I sit around, put my verses together like a mathematician sometimes. I try to figure out a cool way to bounce a word here. I put some thought in to it. But some people would rather hear someone talking from their heart. It just depends. That’s what’s great about rap or any kind of art form. It’s like whatever suits you. But yea, I won, to put it into closing form.
Dizzy Dustin: We have no idea man. I feel like I won because I freestyled. Andy had his written. Andy can flow regardless. He’s a great writer. He can spit it, He can do what you gotta do with it. I’m nonchalant with it. If it’s homework, I’m not doing it. I don’t know.
Who won? Einstein won, that’s who won.
HHS: In closing, how would you some up Bang for the Buck?
Andy Cooper: Well, here in Southern California, we’ve got this cat named Cal Worthington and he’s maybe 70-years-old and he wears a cowboy hat and he sells used cars on TV. That’s kind of like the cover and the idea is like. We’re trying to go right for you. We’re not trying to pull punches. We’re trying to sell you a car, but not a used car, but some hip-hop. But, there is this little scheme that I slipped in there. I don’t think I told the other guys. The idea of especially the record cover, with the gun shooting out money. That sort of a laugh about gangster music and violence and how it’s all a ploy to make huge amounts of money and act like you’re some kind of gangster, anti-society rebel. But the fact of the matter is it’s just an image being used to profit. So there’s a little bit of double entendre in that. for what it’s worth.
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