Interview originally took place in June 2011
I’ve heard a lot of different answers to this question, but what do you think was the most important year for hip hop as a whole?
The biggest year in hip hop was 1992, without a doubt. 1992 all the way up until ’99 and then when 2000 came, it all changed.
Okay and what, for you, made that the most important year?
Well everything that was being made was so original and never heard before, but you know, with that being said, that’s what hip hop is supposed to be all about: originality and just things that people have not heard other people doing. And then with the radio and the way radio plays music for political reasons, not necessarily caring for the community. You know sometimes they do, you got younger fans who listen to today’s music, but my thing is to play everything; anything and everything that’s good and I kinda felt like the hip hop we were doing was so original, but it is just lacking that sound today.
It is starting to turn back around to what we used to do though; you hear a lot of these new producers and these new artists, their music is starting to sound like it’s from the 90s, and that’s the era that I owned. It’s important that people know, that kids know, what real hip hop is and not just be sidetracked by today’s hip hop, cos it’s one dimensional, it doesn’t teach you about what came before then. I don’t see none of these cats looking back & saying ‘you know what I used to listen to Pete Rock’, or ‘I used to listen to Tribe Called Quest and get inspired’, you just don’t hear that type of talk from these young artists, so it is up to us to try and keep this music alive and keep it original, and teach the younger kids about what this is.
What do you think it was about that time that inspired so many people to create music like that, and what’s changed now?
I think it was the money, seeing how fast they can make money by making a five minute beat, or a 10 minute beat cos you know if you listen to the music, it doesn’t stick to you, you know what I mean? You know, kinda like how oil and water doesn’t mix, it’s like that. But the stuff we make is timeless and its sticks to you, you never forget it, you’ll take it away with you to your grave and that’s the type of music that needs to be made today and that’s what real talent is. You can show people you can make a great record and then 10 years down the line, people will talk about it. Or people will talk about it anyway, but for the wrong reasons, like if it’s not relevant, and then it is time to go back to the drawing board.
Yeah, it seems to have lost its soul essentially.
Yeah exactly, its lost its soul and that’s cos of the money and the fast talkers, all the people who feel like, “All you gotta do is copy off this guy, we can make the same type of money just by doing what he’s doing” and then that’s how the game gets twisted, you know, because no ones being original, everyone’s being a copy cat. You know, we all have the potential to be leaders, but if you’re not leading right then you need to let the next leader take over and lead the people right.
And do you see any potential leaders in the artists that are coming out at the moment?
Hmm, maybe [laughs] but as far as people I respect, in my era, there are definitely potential leaders and people that I feel are doing the right thing. But ask me that question about these new cats, then I couldn’t really answer you.
Now we know you’ve got this big album coming out with Smif n Wessun, “Monumental”, next week; is it going to be a nod to that golden era?
That album is going to restore something that is lacking in the game. You know, I’m not saying it’s the best album in the world, but it’s a great album. It explains the real definition of real music, when you listen to it. So that’s the idea we’re trying to get out there, that good music will prevail. If you think about it, it’s the real musicians who we sampled to make hip hop, who are the people who kinda created hip hop and influenced us as kids, you know. They influenced Kool Herc, they influenced Grandmaster Flash; everything that was made musically by musicians, before hip hop started, helped to start hip hop. It was a certain time in music when people were looking for something new, which was hip hop. So it comes from records like James Brown, or The SOS Band, or Isaac Hayes, or Aretha Franklin; they’re hip hop too but they don’t even know it. All we did was take their music and make it hip hop, that’s all we did. It wasn’t in no way malicious, you know, the sampling; we were doing it for fun. It turned malicious when a guy named Gilbert O’Sullivan didn’t want hip hop sampling his music, so when Biz Markie sampled “Alone Again (Naturally)”, that’s when all hell broke loose with everyone coming out the woodwork, wanting to get paid for sampling their music. Which is, you know, not a problem, but some people take it out of context; they want a certain percentage of the song, or they don’t want their song sampled in something with cursing in it, you know, I’ve heard some artists say they don’t want their music sampled if it’s not played at the same tempo they made it and I can understand that, but I just wanted to put it out there that sampling was not done maliciously, it was done out of inspiration and we had to give something back to the people who inspired us, and that was hip hop.
Okay and what can we expect to hear from you in the future?
There’s the Tek and Steele album, aCampLoalbum, a Pete Rock vs. Premiere album and my instrumental album, which I’m working on. I’m also working with Nas again on the Rock the Bells tour, which is going to be a lot of fun, I can’t wait to see how that goes down.
Do you think you’ll be working with Nas on his new album as well?
Yeah… hopefully [laughs]
And talking of big names, I hear you’ve got a lot of dope artists working on the Monumental album too?
Yeah, yeah, you’ve got Bun B on there, you’ve got Raekwon, Black Rob, you’ve got Buckshot, Sean Price, Styles P, you got Hurricane G, Memphis Bleek, Freeway… And there are people there who I’ve never worked with before, so it’s going to be good to hear them on my music. And you know, I think the album came together pretty well with Tek and Steel. I think its going to be one of those great albums, you know. People won’t turn their faces up at it, like ‘Oh that’s wack, I don’t want hear that right now!’ [laughs] The music is great on there, in my opinion. That’s out on June 28, and I’m also planning to leak something from theCampLo album soon.
That’s going to be another big one.
Yeah, I can’t wait. I think all these projects are going to be good, because people want to hear my music again; they are tired of what they’re hearing and what they’re not hearing.
Well we look forward to it man, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
No doubt man, it was a pleasure. Peace.