While the collaboration has always been a staple in rap music, these days, they’re commonly limited to one artist enlisting the services of the A-List producer or MC of the moment in order to boost sales. But dead prez and The Outlawz are doing things differently: the Tallahassee duo (made of M-1 and stic.man) and 2Pac’s entourage (Young Noble, Kastro and E.D.I.) recently released a entire album together, Can’t Sell Dope Forever. In an interview with HipHopSite, Young Noble and stic.man discuss how the project came to be, emphasize their similarities over their differences, and how their album is more than just a message to drug dealers.
HHS: How did your groups meet?
Young Noble: M-1 and Castro have been chopping it up for a minute, we were supposed to have been put out some music together (but never got around to it). But stic.man is in Atlanta, we’re out in Atlanta, our artist Storm got connected with stic, and we wound up getting connected. And it’s been history ever since. We always respected dead prez man. And you know they always had love for us. So you know, it was just once we got together it was natural, we got a common history.
stic.man: You know what homie? You know how you be fucking with niggas, and you don’t really remember exactly? My nigga Jaheed brought me to y’all studio, and that’s how we started doing the music shit. I connected with Storm like on the everyday and then we all just bonded. So it was Jaheed that connect me to y’all.
Young Noble: OK, OK, that’s what it is then.
HHS: When you guys first started working together, did you guys have the idea to make an entire album together, or were you just basically making songs, and seeing where they would turn up?
Young Noble: I came up with the idea that we do an album together, ’cause me, I’m in hustler mode. I see an opportunity, and I think its hot. I’m the kind of nigga that’ll think of something, and there’s no better joy than making that shit come to life. So when I first chopped up with stic.man about that, we had already did like a song or two. But I was like, “You know what? Lets just motherfuckin do a album. stic.man was like hell yea, lets do it. You know what I mean. You know they definitely familiar with us, we familiar with them. We got a common voice. Like we represent the struggle, we represent the voice of the motherfuckin people. So it was like it was almost natural for us to do that shit. Once we started working on the project, we started Banging On The System, and then the cant sell dope shit, then we did the stic and Noble album. Banging On The System is going to come out after the stick and Noble album, and it ain’t no telling what’s going gone come out after that. And we’re going to keep it moving and going.
HHS: The Outlawz and dead prez are very different artists, so how difficult was it for you guys to grow chemistry but still able to accentuate your differences?
stic.man: First, tell us from your perspective, what is the difference [between our groups]?
HHS: I think that the difference between you guys is that dead prez’ political nature seems more blatant, putting the message out explicitly, while The Outlawz political nature seems more underlying, told through stories.
stic.man: And then its all for us to answer that question, because it’s so many assumptions that we don’t really see. Our message would be going back to Pac and his relationship with The Outlawz. And his message being one of, “Get your power up, nigga,” and hope for the hopeless. That’s same movement that inspired dead prez, when we was in Tallahassee hustling, and doing certain shit, to survive and to learn ourselves. Pac was putting out “White’s Man World,” and Pac was putting out “Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.S.,” “Never ignorant, getting goals accomplished.” And then we had Young Noble, and Hidi Amin, fucking Kastro. You know who (Fidel) Castro is, that’s Cuba. Of all of these, that’s the same message. So when people say, “Y’all are so different when y’all come together,” we look at it like, If we were so different, we couldn’t have came together. We came together because we had that much shit in common. So it’s always interesting to ask that question back to the person doing the interview.
Young Noble: Someone asked me the other day like, do I think doing the album called Cant Sell Dope like if we would of did it with somebody else, one of these major (label) dudes, would it have been a bigger impact or something like that. And I’m like hell no. We couldn’t even did this project with somebody else.
HHS: Another interesting facet of this album, to me, was how it had both of what you guys are best at: it has political messages, but it’s still is sort of gangsta. Much of rap music today is usually one or the other, without much room in between. So how difficult was it to do both of those together?
stic.man: I respond by saying, first of all, ain’t no such thing as gangsta without politics. Gangsta is dealing with people, it’s dealing with community control, it’s dealing with a philosophy of honor, loyalty, love and respect. It’s dealing with business. All these things take organization and leadership, which is what? Politics. So it ain’t no real gangsta shit that ain’t political. And if you are talking about things that govern peoples’ lives, and you’re talking about changes from a fundamental level that’s going to take by any means necessary to make it happen politically, then you’re talking about some gangsta shit, in the realest sense. So to me, real shit is going to have elements of all that. Anything that you find that don’t have that, is some made up shit.
Young Noble: And as far as like how difficult was, it was actually easy. I mean this what the fuck we do. This shit is like second nature to us my man. You know what I mean.
stic.man: It’s just part of what our understanding of the world.
HHS: The Outlawz and dead prez are primarily known for working with your own camps. How is it different working on a whole album with other artists, as opposed to your routine group members?
Young Noble: I loved it. Stic.man is damn near a genius when it came to the studio. Like him and Castro are real particular about everything, they critique everything as far as the music is concerned. And I love that. It’s like with more people it’s the less work you got to do. So instead of me always having to do 16 bars and the hook, I might just have to the eight bars for this song or something like that. You know what I mean. But as far as like working with more dudes, I loved it, it wasn’t hard at all. It was just a beautiful thing: all these different minds working on the same goal, just different perspectives. Shit is like a masterpiece to me.
stic.man: Working with The Outlawz was a blessing, too. It’s like I see my reflection: Noble is a hustler, Noble is a nigga that that he gone do what he say he gone do. He’s super-talented. Nigga can write a crazy verse in 20 minutes or 10 minutes, and you’ll think the nigga took a few weeks to get his thoughts together and all that shit. This nigga E.D.I. was writing, without even writing it down on paper; just writing his shit in his head, and then spit it like it was written. Just the skill level that a worker, the brother’s that got ambition. When you here saying the RBG fam, shout out to all my niggas, but sometimes you work with people who don’t have that same drive, or haven’t seen things completed before. The Outlawz have that goal-oriented mindset, to get shit done. There have been times where I’ll be getting demoralizing, feeling stagnation, like, “Nigga let’s get a million things done.” And everybody knows that with Pac whole work ethic, a million and one songs is nothing. It was like just to be inspired by that, that’s what I’ve been needing to keep myself motivated, ’cause I be that sole nigga in my camp sometimes. (Also,) I knew that all of the emcees have real shit to talk about, it was nothing corny, no corny styles. Everything was just real.
HHS: Talk about the importance that you thing this album can have for both the culture and for music. Everything. You know what I mean.. Talk about how important this album and for you guys to team up.
stic.man: I think the album is important. One main thing is because you’ve a lot of young cats, 13 or 14 years old, growing up right now, and they might look at Pac like old school. Imagine that. They not getting the benefit of Melly Mel’s “The Message,” and they not getting the benefit of even “Beat Street,” or Public Enemy, or NWA, and just the balance of real music. They’re getting that real fluffy version of what’s selling first right now. A lot of that shit is trying to sell these little niggas the idea I’m going to be a dope dealer and make a million dollars. And a lot of people are just carelessly selling that to people.
So I feel like this album, for what it’s worth-what dead prez’ credibility is worth, what Outlawz shit is worth-people get another viewpoint. Not that were attacking nobody, who’s out here rapping doing they thing, but its another viewpoint. Like you might listen to one record that’s out now and it’s talking about being a trap star and all that, but you might listen to this record and you’re going to hear the guy that was coming to the trap, and this is how his life, and his daughter and everyone is around him is being affected by it. So you gone hear the real side of the drug game. And not just the shit that people trying to sell you, the flashy (lifestyle) and the excitement of a hustler.
Also, if you look at the title of this record, its not just talking to so-called wannabe dope boys, its talking to the industry and the system itself. We’re telling the system and the industry, you can’t sell dope forever. You can’t keep pushing that same bullshit on our community that doesn’t reflect reality. We want people to know, don’t just look at it like we talking down to some dopeboys. Because the real dope boy, the biggest dopeboy is between the doctor, and the medical system, and them and George Bush. Uncle Sam is the number one pusher man. And we saying that and we saying that we not gone allow the system and the industry to sell us that same dope and doping us up with that foolishness forever. You know what I mean. We gone make a difference and you know.
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