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General Steele: Welcome To Buck Town

steelecrop

A general is a leader.  Someone who surveys the landscape, develops and implements strategy and sets a battle plan in motion.  As one half of Bucktown’s finest duo, Smif N Wessun, General Steele has big plans.His solo album Welcome To Bucktown is both a departure from his Smif N Wesson material, and a renewal of that Brooklyn grit and grime that you know and love. But there is more to Steele than just album promotion. AllHipHop sat down with the general to talk about  responsibility, skill, and the Bootcamp/Duck Down legacy. Sit back and salute.AllHipHop.com:

Your album almost feels like a love letter to Brooklyn. How has Brooklyn inspired

or contributed to your music?

 

General

Steele: Being born and bred in the County of Kings, being the borough

of very rich culture, very diverse ethnic background, heavy Caribbean influence

and being born in the70’s, I was influenced by the soul. That was when Brooklyn

really started getting poppin’.

 

If you’re familiar at all with an Oakland, or San

Francisco and these towns where they explode and they became heavily populated

just by common people regular folks.  It

was really close to home ground and for me, I see a lot of good, I see a lot of

bad. Coming up, I was blessed to be introduced to this Hip-Hop thing. I promise

you man I didn’t really think that, you know, I want to grow up and be this rap

cat; it just worked out in that way. I feel blessed. So, it’s only right that

you tell the story of what you experience.

 

I haven’t heard that, but I’m glad you put it that way,

I mean I’m gonna use that if you don’t mind. A love letter to Brooklyn?

Absolutely, that’s exactly what it is because I do love the borough. I also

love the neighboring boroughs as well because without the neighboring boroughs Brooklyn

wouldn’t stand out so great. We do our thing. A tree grows in Brooklyn and I

have to salute the place that gave me birth and exposed me to the world.

 

AllHipHop.com:

How much harder is it holding down a solo album than it is a Smif N Wessun

Album? Are the mechanics and the thought process different?

 

Steele:

The mechanics are no different doing a solo project because I started out as a

solo artist. When I started as a solo artist, Tek was my homie. He was just my

partner in crime already.  Later on, because

we hung out so thoroughly, I wanted to have a partner. But you know, before I was

a solo artist I was in a group. I’ll show you a picture, this is an exclusive,

nobody’s ever seen this. I was in a group with my brother Chase. He started me

in rapping. He was like you going to be my partner. We gone have matching ‘Benzes,

we gonna have matching limos, everything’s  gonna be black and gold. He loved Rakim. [shows

picture] This ain’t even on my MySpace. AllHipHop exclusive.

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Tek was my partner beforehand, me and the homie decided

to go other ways, and I was like you[Chase] got me started, I’mma stay with

it.  It felt natural.  Growing up in Brooklyn, you always had that

survival tactic in your mind, like what can I do to fit in? But it’s no way I could

do this without my partner, my PNC and without my Boot Camp.

When we started, Tek and Ruck are two of the pickiest

Boot Campians, two of the pickiest rap cats period. Not even rap cats, two of

the pickiest dudes I know. So to get them involved was a challenge for me. I

went to family first and I needed my family involved and they blessed me with

the best. It wasn’t gonna feel right without having them involved. Of course I wanted

to tell my ode to Brooklyn, through the General’s  eyes, but all the things I’ve learned is

inclusive of what I have experienced with my brothers.

 

AllHipHop.com:

As

an emcee, what do you consider your main strengths?

 

Steele:

My main strength as an emcee is I know how to read.  A lot of rappers can’t read and if you can’t

read you can’t write. Not saying that some people don’t write… if you can’t write

you gotta do the rain man and  or kinda

just mumble rap and come with it. Then there are some people who are like James

Baldwin, or like Langston Hughes. We write it down, we document it…Mumia Abu

Jamaal, we document it, we are writers.

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I was thinking about that today when I was coming from

the store. I’m not a battle rapper. I’m not gonna get out there and talk about

how I’m gonna demolish you with the rhyme. I’m gonna be a scholar. I’m gonna be

a teacher, a student, a soldier.  I’m

gonna be a comrade. I’m gonna be your friend, your homie; the common

denominator. I think my consciousness, as far as that, helps me as well as

Smif N Wessun and Boot Camp sustain.

 

Sean Price is the funny guy in the Boot Camp, so why

not be funny on rap? They call me the good reverend, so why not take you there?

I’m gonna take you through the mind travel part of it. Tek is gonna put it

right in front of you. We gotta know how to blend those things so my strength is

just being a general, and wanting to preserve that position by doing what a

soldier does, doing the work for the team and making sure at the end of the

day, if the work is done, you say, “Good job. Salute soldier. Bung!”

 

AllHipHop.com: Do

you think rappers have a higher level of responsibility in times like this?

Steele:

Just do your part. Go talk to some kids in the hood. Keep them out of the

stupid s**t out there. Rap breeds a lot of ignorance too so we gotta play our

part. We are role models. Big up to those rappers that be taking care of the

community; taking care of the hood and spending money out in the hood. I ain’t

gonna name names, Ya’ll know who ya’ll are. Salute. The General knows.

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AllHIpHop.com:

What is the difference between the original Duck Down, Boot Camp run and the

current one?

 

Steele:

The current one with Duck Down is expanding. A couple years ago, one of Dru Ha’s

friends told him he needed to give it up because he only had Boot Camp, because

he only putting out Sean Price; because he was only putting out Smif N Wessun,

Black Moon. It was a continuous cipher and people outside thought that it wasn’t

no growth.

 

But we was building the foundation. We was working on

solidifying the foundation, so if we were to expand, we can have something to

stand on. A lot of independent artist labels are gone. When we originally would

go to sign to distribution labels, they had artists there that took precedence

over us even having a meeting with them. 

So Dru, sticking it out, and saying we have to expand; we have to build

this foundation. And then the artists involved, going through the game and the frustration

and sustaining, being able to say we have the foundation. Boot Camp got an

album right now. Smif N Wessun is working on an album right now. Heltah Skeltah

D.I.R.T. album in stores right now, if you haven’t heard it get from under that

rock and go get that; it is the incredible rap team for real.

 

So now when you add on a B Real? Wow! That’s just

classic. How did that happen? I don’t know but I’m happy. DJ Revolution,

another California, L.A. resident. How does Boot Camp East Coast keep mingling

with these West Coast guys? Because it’s Hip-Hop; we are an expansive culture.

We are not a culture meant to just be on this corner. There’s corners in every

state. As we start going to places you might see a Buckshot hooking up with a 9th

Wonder or a Sean Price hooking up with a 9th Wonder and the album

they put out is gonna be phenomenal.

 

It’s only right that after all these years in the game,

Duck Down has to expand. It’s a natural progression because if you love what

you do you’re going to work to advance. You’re not gonna want to be a cashier

at McDonald’s forever. Hopefully you’ll aspire to move up. Duck Down is in a

good place. Big Up to Torae and Marco Polo.

 

Not to mention KRS-1. Forget about it KRS-1 and

Buckshot. Wait till you hear the Buckshot KRS-! And Mary J Blige song. Duck Down

is in the building. Doing your work, being consistent and showing appreciation

for the fans for supporting us all these years.

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