If you follow Lee Scott on Facebook, you might have noticed he’s recently started posting up some of his favourite classic rap albums and urging his younger fans to go and explore them if they’re not already familiar. Me and Lee have had a few little rap related chats of our own in the past and so I thought I’d use the current situation as an opportunity to pick his brains about his favourite rappers from back in the day, plus a few other little questions here and there. So via Twitter DMs, we delved into a whole bunch of original talent, including Redman, Likwit Crew, Company Flow and The Cenobites (the title of this piece is a reference to their track, How The Fuck You Get A Deal). To be honest we could have gone on a lot longer, so maybe we’ll try and squeeze another one out before normality returns. For now though, get stuck into this geeky conversation.
G: Okay, well I know you’ve got a few favourites from back in the day, but who do you feel had the biggest impact on you when you first started rapping?
L: I’d say when I really started trying to rap, probably The Fugees and Redman, closely followed by Company Flow. Fuck and probably Wu-Tang to be honest, man. Jesus, just having memories now.
Lets go with this: The Fugees, Redman and then Wu-Tang and a little bit later like 2000/2001, Company Flow.
G: This is why I like going back, always stuff I forget about. That’s quite a varied list in terms of styles; was Reggie the favourite?
L: Yeah, you know, I think the first actual Wu thing I owned, was Wu Chronicles, I had seen the Triumph video at my friends house in probably like ’97 and thought it was incredible, but never had enough for the double-disc album and the Chronicles artwork was incredible to my young mind then. So I picked that up and then became obsessed trying to figure out what the hell was going on and who was who. My first big favourite was definitely Lauryn Hill. I really rated Wyclef too, I mean if I listen to that album I still do rate the guy. His shit was absolutely out of the box, all over the shop and unorthodox. Redman has probably been my favourite rapper overall since I first heard him though. And Biggie you know.
I had to live with my grandparents for my last year of secondary school and I kept bugging me grandad to try and clock how boss Biggie was. I pretty much played nothing but Biggie in the summer of ’99. Random memory lol.
I was a big fan of the Puff Daddy & The Family album too back then, there’s still a couple of boss tunes on that project. I listened to Harlem World by Ma$e a lot too.
G: Ah man I was a big fan of that Puffy album. I remember getting slated by my mates at the time cos they’d got into Co Flow at a similar time. But I just liked all of it man, still do. I remember there was a Lox track on there that was pure funk.
L: Really? Yeah man there’s some proper good songs on that. I never had that problem with any of my mates round mine like. Me main mate that would proper collect rap CDs and that had everything, all different shit.
G: Did you ever try to sound like any of them when you first started?
L: I probably tried to sound like them all to be honest. I remember being like 15 and trying to rap like Timbo King, on that first song on the Wu Killa Bees album, like I remember actively trying to replicate his voice.
G: I think that’s pretty common though, emulating your heroes until you find your own voice. Do you remember the first time you heard Co Flow cos that was a big WTF moment for me. It just sounded so different to everything else that was classed as rap.
L: See yeah, I bought the CD from HMV. I can’t remember exactly when but I know I was in my last year of school whenever that was, 2001 I think, I bought it just because the cover was boss. I listened to it and was fascinated by it right away, but see the thing for me is, although don’t get me wrong, it was highly original – I didn’t find it THAT far removed from Dare Iz A Darkside and some of the moods/songs on The Score, does that make sense? Like I would listen to Dare Iz A Darkside then Company Flow and don’t get me wrong they’re very different, but I guess they’re similar tempos and have an underlying sort of ‘darkness’ to them. Although Dare Iz A Darkside is way more funk samples, it’s still got a gloomy vibe.
G: Yeah I can see that. I guess Redman always sounded a lot more traditional to me though, where as Co Flow were some avant garde sci fi referencing rap geeks with this dystopian production that was fully New York, but the New York from a John Carpenter movie.
L: Traditional? Yeah? That’s mad because I swear go and re-listen to that Dare Iz A Darkside bro, start to finish, this guy is insane; when I was first listening to that it was in another galaxy. I get you in terms of content though, obviously they were on some different shit lyrically, but still both hip hop as fuck. Redman was pretty obscure and out of the box with it too though in a different way. Company Flow had like, a real inner city vibe to me, it felt like the modern city dwelling cynics mind. People who were very wary of the future. I didn’t live in a big city back then but we had weird things dotted about that fit the image that album put in my head. I mean not even weird things dotted about, back then I literally lived in the middle of some Orwellian shit. Pebble dashed terraced houses, council estates surrounded by miles of flats with little bits of woodland sandwiched between them. It was like, I was in that future but on the outskirts of the city they’re reporting from, listening in.
G: Maybe traditional was the wrong word, I guess maybe it was more the content and production that didn’t seem that out of the ordinary, whereas Co Flow’s beats just sounded wild to me. First time I heard Fire in Which You Burn I must’ve rewound it about ten times just to try to get a grip on what I’d just heard. That’s mad about your surroundings though. You’ve shown me photos of Runcorn’s old estates and it was like a JG Ballard novel or something, I can see how you conjured that up in your mind.
L: Yeah I get you, songs like Fire in Which You Burn and Population Control were probably the most left field beats on there, definitely in a different pocket. Don’t get me wrong, they’re obviously very different albums but I’m just saying it didn’t feel like I was listening to two opposite ends of the spectrum of the genre.
G: Yeah this was purely my reaction as a 15, 16 year old kid. Nowadays they sound a lot more related. What about the whole West Coast movement, anyone over there that you fucked with? I was a huge Death Row fan when they first formed. That was like my intro to rap, that and Cube, but he was doing more of a NY thing when he went solo. With the production I mean.
L: Oh man, I was a big West Coast fan to be honest, from Snoop and Ice Cube to the Luniz, obviously based on the 5 On It tune. Nate Dogg choruses were the best shit ever to me growing up, still are. I had a few 2Pac single tapes as well as a kid. Ice T was a favourite. Not the West Coast sound you’re probably referring to, but I had a random House of Pain song, On Point, taped off Top of The Pops in 1993 and I learnt every word to the first verse and tried to write my own. In a way that song made me start trying to write raps, at like 8. But yeah, Ice T, Cube, Snoop and all of those guys were like superheroes.
Did you not like Three 6 Mafia back then? I loved the Mystic Stylez album, I could barely make out what anybody was saying, but it was so weird and interesting sounding to me, I used to play it a lot. It was an imported version of the CD which I lost like a year after I bought it and couldn’t buy it again cos it was too fucking expensive. I liked Master P and Mystikal back in 1998 too, I loved that Make Em Say Uhh tune.
G: You know what, I didn’t get into them until much later. Same with UGK. I was into the Atlanta scene a lot more, Outkast, Goodie Mobb and all that. Outkast especially had a huge impact on me. Their contrasting styles were so perfectly matched and the production just kept getting more experimental with each album, which I was big fan of. It’s funny cos I know a lot of people don’t dig Stankonia as much as the others but it’s probably above Atliens for me. Some wild beats on there.
L: Yeah I get you, I was super into Stankonia, I guess it’s an era thing, I was bumping it heavily when it first came out, again it just sounded brand new like nothing I’d really heard. I think snobbery comes within all genres obviously but I promise everybody out there, music is so much more fun when you just forget about other peoples opinions on what you’re supposed to like and dislike.
G: Oh someone else I got really into was the Likwit Crew. Especially Tash, Defari and King Tee. And then I think that’s how I got into Madlib, which is mad thinking about who he is now
L: Yeah, I loved all the Likwit Crew, the way I got into them actually was via Xzibit. Back in the day when I first had a go on the internet the song by Xzibit, Paparazzi, was doing the rounds, which led me to find more by him and eventually turned me on to the rest of the Likwit crew guys.
I had heard of Madlib but only knew of him via some collaborations with the Likwit Crew crowd, I didn’t have much ways of researching because we’d only have the internet in phases back then. A bit later, an older friend of mine who was heavily into MF DOOM passed me a link to that leaked version of Madvillain, then I got into that album. For a while I preferred the leak to the final version. I thought the beats were some of the best shit I’d heard in years. When my friend had tried to show me MF DOOM before that album I don’t think I quite got it, I went back though afterwards and became a big fan of DOOMSDAY as well.
I mean, the whole Xzibit thing makes me think straight away it’s worth mentioning right now that Dr. Dre – 2001 was absolutely fucking mind blowing when it first dropped. I was in Castlefields Youth Centre when I first heard Still D.R.E, I was playing shooty with me mate with a fucking sponge football and some older scallies had been talking about this new Dr. Dre all day. Then someone turned up with the CD and they played it, I literally thought it was the best thing I’d ever heard. The sound of the beat and that. Crazy! That is up there with the best albums in my opinion.
I liked Slim Shady LP a lot too, but some of the beats put me off it a little bit. Though the songs I liked on that album I really liked, if you get me. I’ve recently got that on vinyl for the first time too and listened to it again, it is actually a very good album. His style was definitely very original at that time.
Man, I have to also say I was big into Bootcamp stuff as well, like that OGC album round mine, we called mine The Wrong House back then, and round there that OGC album was like a daily listen. Alongside Showbiz & AG – Full Scale, CD version, and a couple of years later the Sean Price – Donkey Sean Jr mixtape was huge to us! I’d say Shakes, Salar and myself were definitely very influenced by the Donkey Sean Jr CD. One of us had bought it from this hip hop clothing shop in Liverpool ran by this fella called Andy, I think it was called Threadz. It was in The Palace in the city centre and he had all the American mixtapes and shit and yeah he had that project. We knew of Sean P due to the Heltah Skeltah stuff, but his style was way crazier when he went solo. Sean P was such a G man, fuck.
G: Ah yes man. Literally the first tape I properly got into was in ’94 and this older kid at school gave it to me – he now makes banging music videos, shout out Chris Lucas – and it had Illmatic on one side and Enta Da Stage on the other. That album was my shit for a long time. And they were only a couple years older than me at the time, which made it even more cool. Just exciting music for me. And yeah that got me into Boot Camp, OGC and that, then obviously Heltah Skeltah and all the Duck Down lot. Beatminerz are still heroes of mine. Them, Bomb Squad and Muggs shaped those early years a lot for me.
L: And then obviously you can’t have a conversation with me without me delving into Kool Keith, that Cenobites album man! To me that is up there, some of my favourite shit ever. The same friend that put me onto DOOM properly put me onto Kool Keith. I had heard bits throughout the years, particular this one tune called Hands On Experience. His verse got mad rewinds, then I learnt that he was also Dr. Dooom so hunted that CD down. But anyway yeah, I bought this album Eastern Conference All Stars, from Andy’s Records in Rochdale where I ended up having to live for a year with me Ma, step Dad and brother. I had heard of Cage/Smut Peddlers and thought it was mad to see that shit on a CD in a shop… in Rochdale. Anyway, yeah there was a few decent songs on that. I didn’t like the Mr. Eon guy at all but there was some good features and that E=MC2 beat produced by The Alchemist was my favourite shit for a little bit. But it was the first time I had properly clocked Kool Keith and it clicked like, oh shit, how is he rapping like that, on that part of the beat! Crazy. Kool Keith is an innovator, anyway long story longer, this friend put me onto the Cenobites, he had it on vinyl, that shit was wild! Love that record to this day, me mate actually gave me that vinyl before he moved to the Ecuadorian mountains on a Quackhandle spiritual quest.
To those that don’t know, The Cenobites (or Cenubites depending on what version you have. I have no idea why but there’s various spellings of it) was a project Bobbito got Kool Keith and Godfather Don to make, which at the time I believe was exclusively for the Stretch & Bobbito Show. Later down the line I guess Bobbito put it out on vinyl via his Fondle ‘Em Records label. The entire thing is produced by Godfather Don, who is definitely worth a huge mention, incredible producer and has a crazy rap style too.
G: Yes mate! Godfather Don’s solo stuff was mad. I think I wore my tape of Diabolique out. I reckon Cenobites or Dr Octagon was my intro to Keith and yeah he had the maddest flow. But everything was mad with him. A million different personas, all of them with their own album lol. Sex Style is one of my all time favourites full stop and I just found it hilarious he made a sophomore album about drinking piss. Was Hands on Experience the one from the High & Mighty album? With Jean Grae, when she was still What What.
L: Yeah, I loved the whole, one million personas thing. I think sometime in the early 00’s he had a website and it just had like 30 Kool Keith heads with different fucking disguises on it and each one had a different name/alias. What a guy. Yeah, Hands on Experience, that’s the one with Bobbito and Jean Grae. I wasn’t a big fan of the content back then to be honest with you, I was a bit like, okay no, but really liked the way Kool Keith rapped.
G: Remember he did that track with The Prodigy too? That still slaps. I’d love to know the story behind that collab
L: You know what man, I just had to look that one up then, I definitely would have heard it at some point because my mate Ged had this album. I don’t have much recollection of it though, I knew they sampled his voice and that before like, obviously. “Take your brain to another dimension” and all that, from Ultramag. Speaking of Ultramag, another big one for me was The Four Horsemen album, the 4 Godfather Don produced joints and Kool Keith’s delivery on Saga of Dandy, The Devil & Day…. Crazy! Return To Zero got about 200 repeats as well.
G: The Prodigy was maybe a timing thing cos I think I’m a few years older than you so I was like 16 when that album dropped and already into that whole scene. Plus I was a Keith fan so it was like the ultimate combo. I never knew Ultramagnetic before I heard Keith but I got into them after. Wasn’t anyone rapping like him back then. Going back to the Wu Tang, who were your favourites and have they changed much over the years?
L: Man, at the start I was fascinated with every member. It’s funny because people sort of dis U-God, but one thing I will say is when you’re a kid he’s one of the stand out guys at the start because his voice is just so recognisable. Or he was to me anyway. I find it hard to say who my actual favourite is, although Raekwon, Ghost and GZA all made the best solo albums in my opinion, followed by ODB & Method Man. Some of my friends absolutely love Tical and say that’s the best though. I guess I was a huge Method Man fan, but never really fully got into the solo albums on the same level. Although I like everyone, I thought he was absolutely dope as hell. I think I prefer the ODB album just for the general insanity. GZA – Liquid Swords is the one album I think back at the start I thought was really great, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t stop listening to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and Iron Man and probably always held those specific two as the two best solo joints. These days though I probably lean more towards Liquid Swords, GZA’s delivery and flow is so good. RZA was really at his absolute peak best on those three albums I think.
G: Meth was my favourite at first because he just sounded so fucking cool to me, but he’s pretty far down my list nowadays. Ghost and Rae were probably the solo ones I fucked with the most, especially OB4CL. The production on Incarcerated Scarfaces is one of my fave Wu beats. I loved the way they costarred on each others albums too. UGod never really figured into my mind one way or another tbh, same with Masta Killa. This is back then. Over time I got into all of them at some point.
L: Of course, I agree basically. Only Built… has always been right up there for me, for best rap albums overall, never mind just Wu members.
G: So how did you get into Alchemist? Was that through that E=MC track or did you already know him then?
L: I can’t remember the exact song but the first one that stands out in my mind right now is Royce’s I’m The King. Then I remember he done some Dilated Peoples stuff and although I’m not a super big Dilated fan, they always had nice beats. Prodigy’s Keep it Thoro was in heavy rotation back then too.
G: It must be pretty surreal to know he’s now a supporter of the whole movement. How did you guys first get in contact?
L: Man, I can’t even remember. I think he probably heard Trellion and Cult Mountain and that through Budgie. It’s not like I pya speak to him, just messages to get addresses for clobber and that. I guess we became aware he fucked with Cult Mountain maybe a couple of years back. Can’t fully remember to be honest. Trelly has been in the studio with him though.
G: Yeah I think it was Budgie cos someone has told me that story before. Well as we’re talking about the old days, do you think it’s important for the new generation to have knowledge of hip hop’s history? Its a criticism that’s levelled at them quite a lot at the moment.
L: It’s a difficult one because some of these kids make shit so vastly different, I’m not sure they even classify themselves as any particular genre. If someone dropped some shit and it was like blatantly what older heads see and classify as hip hop, then it would be weird if the person doing it was absolute unwilling to know any history. I guess some kids are confused and get mixed messages though. I’ve deffo seen a lot of older guys saying shit like, “That’s not hip hop!”. If you’ve got one older saying it’s not hip hop or real hip hop, then you got another one saying you must learn all the history you little shit, you’re probably going to be like ‘okay fuck that’ and rebel. So yeah, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to look back at older music whatever genre you’re in though really. It’s quite cool to be or pretend to be oblivious to everything nowadays though.
G: I agree with you about looking back, I find it fascinating personally, but then I don’t think it is a necessity. I think a basic understanding is enough. And yeah, a lot of this does seem to be semantics where if they just called it something different no one would care. Or maybe they would and then you’d get older heads complaining that they’ve ripped off hip hop, but are calling it something different lol. Someone’s always going to be salty.
I think I might end it there man cos we’ve hit the 4000 word mark, but thanks for chatting with me as always. You got anything else to add? What’s up next for you?
L: Exactly man. Yeah, I’m not entirely sure what’s next to be honest. I want to open a tiger zoo.
G: It’s good to have options.
L: Oh and go listen to The Pharcyde’s first two albums and Black Sheep’s first album.
G: Sound advice.