PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY / THIS IS HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE – MASTA ACE

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Earlier this year, I had a pretty extensive talk with Masta Ace about his history and was just real honored to hear stories about the Juice Crew, that Biz Markie puppet, and just a ton of stories and insight. More importantly, he’s in good spirits and good health, so thumbs up to that. READ IT HERE.

I was recently in LA and saw this “Born To Roll” poster on the wall of Delicious Pizza. A few weeks back, we spoke with J-Zone and he said something to the effect of, “Masta Ace should be Top 5 alone for how he’s been able to adapt through the years.” There’s certainly some truth to that; just level of difficulty alone, how hard is to do what Ace has done?

Nobody Beats The Biz

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I’m thrilled to have written my third cover story in a row for Wax Poetics Japan. This issue (#35!) is immensely focused on the rap’s first royal collective, The Juice Crew. The photos are amazing, with deep pieces on Big Daddy Kane, Marley Marl, Kool G Rap, and other stalwarts. You can peruse parts of the issue and purchase it HERE .

Since it’s for WPJ, it (obviously) reads in Japanese, but my dudes at Wax Po here in the US were gracious enough to post the original English translation on their site. Take a look at Rap’s clown prince and his deep history, followed by a Q&A sourced from a series of interviews I did with Biz a few years back. READ IT HERE.

OG, Original Genius: Kool G Rap Interview Pt. II

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* Published concurrently on www.waxpoetics.com

* ‘G Rap’ Image By Kori Thompson

G Rap’s early career was a minefield of shifty fictions anchored in large by a dizzying cadence and attention to detail. And while these early years were fleeting, they, like any true pioneers’ work, set the framework for younger cats to explore. Wu-Tang, Jay-Z, Nas, and Biggie were all spawned from G Rap, later citing his delivery and Mafioso street narratives as immensely impactful and of influence.

I spoke in depth with G Rap for Wax Poetics issue 58, touching on ballyhooed history and other watershed moments during his immensely rich upstart. But there’s so much more to his story, so many colorful characters that came and went in an era where Biz Markie had entirely long beatboxing routines and Big Daddy Kane rapped while doing vigorous dance numbers— all of it under the guidance of rap’s first super producer, the venerable Marley Marl. It was a showcase of fun and well roundedness that underscored the Juice Crew’s heyday.

To this day, the trajectory of his career and its catalogue has been a point of reference for so many, and here’s the rest of our interview, bookended by opulent moments of his storied rise. Says G rap: “I just had crazy confidence in myself. I knew that skill-wise, especially back then, I was an elite. I was untouchable.”

Even though most fixate on those first early records of yours, you’ve had a lot of artistic output since. What are you up to these days?

I’m working on a screenplay. I’m transitioning from rapper back to just writer and am working on concepts for short films. Some of the themes are taken from my old albums. I’m gonna start shooting short films of all these song concepts I’ve had through the years. I can’t wait to get in the field and just put art out there again.

Perhaps one of your well known is “Road To The Riches”. The video itself is remarkable. Talk about working with director Fab Five Freddy.

I was no older than twenty at that point even though I looked thirteen [laughs]. It was directed by [Fab Five] Freddy who I think did an excellent job. He’s from that element, he’s from the streets. He’s definitely a fan of hip-hop and captured what we were going for.

That song was taken from my real life experiences. I wasn’t literally sweeping floors for dimes but if you consider the minimum wage then, I was basically working for dimes [laughs]. It was just my life and things that were going on around me. I mentioned John Gotti because it was the topic of the times. Any part of the violence that I wrote about were things I saw, even if I didn’t directly participate in all of it. I mean, right before the video shoot, this Jamaican cat I knew shot this dude in my neighborhood. Later, the dude ended up killing the Jamaican cat. These were real life things and experiences that I took in.

Let’s talk about the Juice Crew explore that history a bit. How was it working with Marley Marl? He was already known and you were actually the newcomer to the crew.

He’s that dude! Needless to say, he’s one of the first, most innovative producers in the game. Marley was the first one where people knew him equally as much as the vocalist. His name stood out as much as Kane or Biz. It was like he set the format without rapping on anything. Everything he did was behind the scenes. He was in a skit and a video, which was cool since he was already so big and should’ve made himself more identifiable. Then (Dr.) Dre and RZA kind of became what Marley laid out— the dude in the studio that made everything happen and known to the listener.

How close were you guys as a unit? Did Marley keep things tight or were you really more or less affiliates? Continue reading “OG, Original Genius: Kool G Rap Interview Pt. II”

American Original: Interview with Biz Markie

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Foreword by Cutso

Hip-Hop does not create renaissance men (or women) anymore. And we can’t really count rappers who have dropped TJ Maxx-bound clothing lines, flavored beverages (soft and hard), TV shows, shoe horns, whatever side-hustles many rappers have undertaken to over-saturate the market on all fronts. Biz Markie did not rely on any of that.

In a time when Hip-Hop was young and cutting-edge, and before it lost grip of its roots, Biz Markie was an all-out entertainer: a successful hit maker both over and underground, an active DJ, a well-schooled record collector, and a mic-soaking beatboxer. He supposedly has an absurd toy collection, as he claims in the Hip-Hop factoid book Ego Trip’s Big Book of Rap Lists. He was also the comic relief character of one of the greatest posses the rap game has ever known: The Juice Crew.

Who could forget his earth-shattering rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” (in which he donned a Hendrix-style dashiki, blowout wig and lefty white Stratocaster) to open the festivities at the Tibetan Freedom Concert? The best part about that particular performance was his inability to play a single note on the guitar. Rather, he substituted shredding for belting “raow raows” belligerently . In that performance, the Biz kept true to the principles of his ground-breaking single “Make The Music With Your Mouth“.

His rendition of Elton John’s classic “Benny and the Jets” (recorded with his chums the Beastie Boys) is also a fine cut of pure, raw, off-the-cuff entertainment. He manages to pull off a gut-busting performance, without knowing a majority of the song’s lyrics.

Nowadays, he moonlights as a venue-packing DJ, and preserves the art of beatboxing as a segment host on Nick Jr.’s children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba, where he teaches viewers how to make music with THEIR mouths.

As the Hip-Hop game awaits its next true all-around entertainer, the Biz stands alone in his own class. With Biz Markie, it is ALWAYS that kind of party. Keep a close watch on your mashed potatoes…

“Lemme Tell You A Story Of My Situation…”

What was the first hip-hop related thing you ever did Biz?
Beatboxing. I mean, I was a kid and that was just the first thing I took up when it came to hip-hop. I didn’t think about, I just sorta did it, ya know?
Continue reading “American Original: Interview with Biz Markie”