8 September, 2010@4:01 pm
HHS: One thing I’ve always noticed about you is your consistency. In all of your releases you have a trademark sound and seem to know who you are. A lot of artists try to re-invent themselves, even with success, what keeps you consistent?
El The Sensei: I think it’s really just the formula that I use. I haven’t changed over the years, except for trying to get better lyrically. When it comes to musical taste, you just know that you have to work with certain producers. They may not be as [well] known as a bigger producer, but they have the same or better quality of music. That’s what I always look for. When [Artifacts] first got our deal on Big Beat, they asked us who we wanted to work with and I said: “the dude that worked with Lord Finesse and Sadat, I think his name is Buckwild.” And then with T-Ray, he was working with Double X Posse at the time, but he just came into the fold and me and Tame just gelled with him. We’d go to his crib and go through records.We made beats a little back then, so we showed him our style and what we liked. So whether it was Shawn J. Period on the second album (That’s Them), there’s always seemed to be a producer that nobody’s known and then [after us]they wound up working with a whole bunch of people later. A perfect example of that is Illmind.When I worked with him on “Crowd Pleasa” on The Unusual, he was pretty unknown. He gave me two beat CDs and when the beat came on, I was like “Damn! What is that, who’s using it and can I have it?” I pretty much look for beats where when somebody hears it, they want it. So if I was a producer, those are the beats I’d want to make.
HHS: I remember when “Crowd Pleasa” came out. I heard it at a house party or something and became obsessed with finding it. That’s one of my all-time favorite tracks.
El The Sensei: For me, that’s how you stay consistent man. The one thing that we appreciate first as fans are the producers because we can’t have the music without them. So I feel like, if I have the producer that everybody knows or that I feel might be up and coming and I get a chance to work with them, then it’s a plus for me too. When he puts down his resume, they’ll come back to me first.
HHS:GT2 is your third project with the Returners. How did you link up with them?
El The Sensei: Actually in 2007, my man Manu, DJ Illegal of the Snow Goons in Germany asked me to do a drop for DJ Chwial. So I did the drop and a month later, they wanted me to do a verse for this Polish group called Afront that they produced for. The record did good for them and they hit me back again two months later, wanting to do an EP. So they started sending me tracks and I guess I wasn’t working fast enough, so they flew me to Poland. A lot of cats knew them in Poland as up and coming producers and when they got with me it just made sense to work on a real project.
HHS: How did the initial project do?
El The Sensei: We put the EP out and it got a good response, even though it wasn’t promoted that much. The only thing we could do was promote it more in Poland, so the last 3 years I’ve just been going back and forth to Poland,doing shows and promoting.This past year,we decided to just put out a real album.We had a conversation, one thing led to another and these dudes just starting making some crack-ass beats. Then we just started calling people up. We called Rakaa and my man John Robinson. I met Reks at HipHop Camp in the Czech Republic, I called Treach and Tiye Phoenix and then everyone started getting onboard. It’s like being on a playground and seeing all these dudes on the court and one female and you know that they all can play, so it’s like damn which one do I pick? Everybody sounded like they wanted to be on the album and served a purpose for being on the record.
El The Sensei: The whole album is sampled from Polish records, so it sounds new and fresh. Hopefully from this record, people will take it more serious. We’ve got the video out right now for “Pain”. The album is a double LP on red vinyl, and people don’t really do colored vinyl anymore. So we’re really trying to get people to understand what we’re doing right now as far as an American artist working with Polish producers.
HHS: In addition to the Returners, you’ve also worked with Polish emcee O.S.T.R. How was working with him and how is the Polish HipHop scene?
El The Sensei: O.S. is the biggest artist out there right now. I’d say he’s the equivalent of a Polish (answer to) Common. He’s a conscious emcee, but a battle emcee too. He goes platinum and gold every time he comes out. His music is very universal and everyone can relate to him. He’s a regular guy, really approachable. Dude makes his own beats, he plays the keys, every damn thing. He’s a mad scientist and I’ve watched him do his work. He tours all over. He’s definitely the pioneer out there. There are a lot of other cats out there too like Hifi Banda, I actually did a song with them recently.
HHS: Your guest list on GT2 features a lot of talented emcees: Sean Price, Rakaa, Tiye and Reks, to name a few. When you’re in there with other talented emcees, does it get competitive?
El The Sensei: I recorded all my verses in Poland. I brought Tiye out to the studio to knock out her verse, but most of the other emcees were in other places. But I went to the studio and met Treach there. That was good though, cuz people hear the song and don’t even know it’s Treach. They’re used to him rhyming fast. People ask how I got him to do that and I tell them that the beat made him do it (laughs). People really got to hear another side of him. Treach is a pioneer for us in Jersey.He’s a star in his own right. He doesn’t do a lot of songs with people, so underground wise, if you get him to do something you should be grateful. With me growing up with him in the hood, I was glad for that. And John Robinson and Reks they killed it. Those dudes are the next generation. That’s another way you stay consistent, working with the new blood and showing them that I’m current as well. And with Tiye, I wanted her to go in and after she came up with that verse,I was like DAMN. That’s definitely one of my favorite songs.
HHS: The single that’s out now, “Knowledge Be The Key”,that track is ridiculous.How was the session with Rakaa? You both murdered it.
El The Sensei: Thanks. I hit Rakaa up on Myspace and he was on it. He did his verse first and when I got it back, I was like damn and that beat is so crazy, I was hoping he’d like it. So I was in the studio and my man Governor Matic said it best [about Rakaa’s verse]; “I know you’re gonna have to go in, cuz the man was rockin.”
It’s pretty much one of the songs on the album that I can say is the strongest. When I listen to Rakaa on there, it makes me feel like it’s a Dilated record. It could be either one of our records. It’s one of those songs that’s a dream come true because I’m a fan first. So when the time comes and I’m done, I can say I worked with one of the best dudes in Hip- Hop.
HHS:So, you, Tame One and DJ Kaos performed together at the 33rd Rocksteady Anniversary. There is a rumor, semi-confirmed, that you are all together and collaborating on a new Artifacts album. Can you confirm that this is true?
El The Sensei: Yes it is very true. We are actually gathering up beats right now. We’re doing shows almost immediately because people found out and started hitting us up. So when we did Rocksteady, people were really excited. We showed the crowd love for the fact that they’d been waiting for this for so long.We didn’t sell a lot of records, or go platinum and we only released two albums as a group, but for some reason, people really took to our music. A lot of cats were rooting for us because we’re like them, especially talking about graffiti and being b-boys as well as emcees. The crowd deserved for us to come back together. So we did North Carolina, South Carolina and Massachusetts. We got LA coming up on September 10th and Atlanta on October 7th to 9thth for the HBC festival. So we’re just trying to get in the studio and make some joints. We’re not too far from our era to make this happen again. We’re one of the few groups where people can say I wonder if this would have happened, I wonder if that would have happened. And now we get to answer that question and the time is still there for it.
HHS: Any last words?
El The Sensei: I just want everyone to go out and support this record. My man Matt Diamond at Coal Mine Records and I are trying to do it big out here in the States. So we want everyone to know that record is out. I want people to know that I have their best interests at heart when it comes to this music. So when you get this album, you can sit back. A lot of people ask me what my music is about and I always look at myself as the Arnold Schwarzenegger of rap, the Bruce Willis of HipHop. I am the action hero in HipHop that when you press play on,from start to finish it’s going to be explosions, glass flying and cars screeching. That’s what you’re gonna get with this music, this album. So cop it, GT2 – Nu World and Artifacts music coming very soon. Much love to everybody.
HHS:Thanks for your time man, you’ve been doing it for a long time, making that shit that we like and saying consistent. I appreciate it.
El The Sensei: That’s why I’m here man. You saying that, that’s what keeps me going. So when the emails stop, the phone calls stop and the interviews stop that’s when I’m gonna stop. So as long as you say that, trust me, I’ll keep workin’.
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