QBall and Curt Cazal have been involved in hip hop since the late 80s, earning their stripes with classic acts like JVC Force. They have managed to maintain a solid foothold in the game through more recent years, thanks to their work with the Grand Central label and more specifically, AIM. Their most recent release is another collaboration with AIM, The Habit of a Lifetime (And How To Kick It) LP. I caught up with the two of them for a quick chat about a few things, including how they came to work together and their views on the current state of rap.
G: Thanks for speaking with me, gents. How is everything going with you at the moment?
C: Once one has breath, all is going well! So everything is going well, thanks.
G: Tell us a little bit about your respective histories and how you both came to work together?
C: We were running together during the JVC Force recording sessions and working on a QBall project, when we decided to do one collab. That set it all up.
Q: Yeah I was doing some solo stuff with a local producer & I knew Curt from high school. He was doing JVC, KSolo, Keith Murray stuff & I ran into him at the post office and asked him to listen to some stuff. I met him a few days later and he laid some beats for me to spit over. We ended up doing a track together called One Time and it was one of the best tracks I’ve done. We decided to do a few more which turned into the Makin Moves EP.
G: What have you both been up to since you dropped The Habit of a Lifetime?
C: Just doing more music and more features. Writing so much, that I’ve been falling behind on the beats. We’ve been setting up for a full QNC EP of some kind though.
Q: Same. I’m doing my best writing at the moment.
G: You’ve been collaborating with Andy (AIM) for a long time now. How did you guys first meet?
C: Through Grand Central via one of their first projects. The Force was our first collaboration with AIM and a bond was formed.
Q: After we released Tremendous with Mystique, Rae & Christian did a remix that was picked up by their label in London. We linked up with Mark a while later to license a few tracks to Fat City and that pretty much led us to the relationship with Mr. AIM Turner. AIM has a great handle of what we like and sound good on. It gives us the freedom to write over dope beats without worrying about the production end. When I think of the thought and sweat that went into creating Habit, I know it was our top work.
G: Curt, I know you we a DJ originally. I was wondering how you got into rapping?
C: I used to write a lot in the later years of JVC and that then transitioned to a three song solo demo phase, which included a collaboration with QBall that garnered a lot of attention. So I decided to just concentrate on that project. From there independent releases were born. I stayed observant throughout and just tried to improve along the way. I’m just not sure yet which I enjoy the most, but production might have the slight ‘lean’.
G: You guys have been around since the 80s in various forms, which is impressive in these disposable days; what do you think is the key to survival in the rap world?
C: I would say just making quality music, finding new outlets and being aware of the changes. Deciding then what does and doesn’t work for you as an artist. Embodying some that fit, while ignoring others that don’t.
G: Obviously the culture has exploded and evolved a lot since the JVC Force days; do you feel it is headed in the right direction?
C: I will say that it is heading in a ‘direction’. I’m just not sure about the ‘right’ part. The sonic imagery of the production has increased but the other aspects, as a whole…
Q: That’s the million dollar question. I think hip hop will be around a long time. It just may not be the hip hop mommy and daddy used to know. There are so many outlets for anyone to release a track .. It’s much harder to sift through the good and terrible. In the 80s and 90s we spent a $1000 dollars to press a track on wax. Back then you wouldn’t waste your money unless it was tested, shown to everyone you knew, tested at block parties, college radio. If the feedback was positive then it’s $1000 to press up and distribute through like a Fat Beats. Now it’s just record, download, attach, send.
G: In all honesty, do you prefer rap in the early days compared to now?
C: I would just say that compared to now, I enjoyed a lot more of the earlier hip hop than I do at this particular point. That said, every era has some questionable material. Some eras just seem to have a bit more than the others. There was just more sonic diversity than there is now.
G: I see older heads complaining that a lot of new artists don’t have respect for the people who came before them. As artists who have ridden the wave from old to new skool, I was interested to know if you agree with that sentiment.
C: It is definitely an observation that has merit, but there is/are some good music and educated artists out there. As with every form, with transition there are always ‘Growing Pains’. Young’uns in everything, whether it be sport or music, or anything always have an attitude that they are The Originators of everything they touch. But I believe we all suffered the ‘ailment’ on the come up. I think, more importantly, the turn that it has taken has proven to be a little bit more irresponsible than the predecessors, so that part is a little concerning to me.
G: When do you consider to be the golden era of hip hop?
C: To me, I think “golden” more applies to The Treacherous 3 type era and the early days. Late 70s, early 80s. That time gave us a template-from which we lyrically and musically crafted an all out, full blown art form and culture. I’m not sure what to call our era just yet. We ll see what comes of what’s currently happen, and decide from there.
Q: I agree with the early 80s, but I fell in love with hip hop when I heard that rugged Rakim flow. I was hooked from then on.
G: What’s next for both of you?
C: We’re just doing what we do. We re gonna keep making quality music and hip hop, and hope that we can ride the wave until good music returns to power in the interim.
Q: Yep there will be an EP released shortly with some dope remixes by Curt from Habit… And a brand new AIM and QNC track that is crazy.
The Habit of a Lifetime is available to buy here.