I was listening to old Hiero tapes and realized I was hearing dudes half my age rap. It was “Step To My Girl” by Souls of Mischief whom, says Tajai, were only “15-years-old when we first recorded those songs.” He continues, explaining “Cabfare”: “I didn’t even have a driver’s license let alone a cabbie license! I just laugh at those songs when I hear them but they have a special place because they’ve touched so many people and have the ability to bring me back to that era.”
“Step To My Girl”
I just spoke with Tajai for an upcoming short piece on their new album, Montezuma’s Revenge, produced by Prince Paul. Here are some quick outtakes from that interview—for Hiero fans, and cats that remember seeing “93 Til” on CMC.
When was the first time you heard Prince Paul? How did he get on board with the new album?
Opio and Domino were on a Handsome Boy Modeling school tour with him and he mentioned doing some music with us. What started out as a dream became reality when he came out to record with us in 2006, damn near 20 years after we first were exposed to his wizardry. His projects have been some of the most influential in my progress as an artist and a person so it was a no-brainer to work with him.
What do you think Paul brought to the table and your sound?
I cannot describe it in any other way but to say that he actually produces records. Like, “how does this fit in with the album, how is this different than the last songs we made, how is this album going to differ from the last few records we made.” He also brings the humor and is able to capture a moment, thought or emotion on tape and re-create it in a coherent fashion that truly shows the listener what we were thinking when making the records. He also has slap!
What was the recording process like?
We sat with hella beats, then picked the ones we liked the most. Then we whittled those down, eliminating tracks that sounded similar or were not as standout as the others. After that we started going beat to beat. Each day we woke up and worked until we were tired. We came up with concepts, cadences/styles and went from song to song. If something wasn’t complete we went over it the next day. It went on like this for 5-6 weeks. We were in the country so there were few distractions.
You guys have maintained the same aesthetic through the years, never changing your style really. Is this a conscious decision or is it just how it ends up?
I have seen so many other cats, in the industry and in real life, hop from trend to trend and it is sad. To me this is evidence of a person who is still searching for his or her identity. But it is also important to update and change with the times so you don’t calcify!
How has Hiero Imperium grown through the years? Did you foresee being owners and businessmen while you guys were younger?
We have signed acts from all genres such as Goapele, A Band Called Pain, Musab (AKA Sab), Knobody, and Chosen Few. We have had to stay ahead of the curve and are fortunate to be in an area of technological advancement as far as the Internet and digital music. I never thought I would be a music business guy but having the experience as an artist has given me insights into the business and artist relations that I think a lot of traditional businessmen don’t have. Plus I had the benefit of being able to be coached by Domino and Michael Ashburne for years before assuming a CEO role.
What’s changed since ’93?
I am happy that Hip Hop has grown in leaps and bounds since we first came out. My only problem is that the playing field with regard to marketing and promotion to the masses leans towards the lowest common denominator musically. But if you look at all industries this seems to be the case across the board. There is a general dumbing-down of the populace going on and I don’t think that hip-hop is immune to this trend. But hey, Hip Hop is global, thriving and feeding millions financially, mentally and spiritually so I can’t complain.
** Montezuma’s Revenge, SOM’s first album in almost 10 years, is out now.