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?
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 the70s, I was influenced by the soul. That was when Brooklyn
really started getting poppin.
If youre 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 didnt 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, its only right that
you tell the story of what you experience.
I havent heard that, but Im glad you put it that way,
I mean Im gonna use that if you dont mind. A love letter to Brooklyn?
Absolutely, thats exactly what it is because I do love the borough. I also
love the neighboring boroughs as well because without the neighboring boroughs Brooklyn
wouldnt 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.
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?
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. Ill show you a picture, this is an exclusive,
nobodys 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, everythings gonna be black and gold. He loved Rakim. [shows
picture] This aint even on my MySpace. AllHipHop exclusive.
Tek was my partner beforehand, me and the homie decided
to go other ways, and I was like you[Chase] got me started, Imma 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 its 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 wasnt gonna feel right without having them involved. Of course I wanted
to tell my ode to Brooklyn, through the Generals eyes, but all the things Ive learned is
inclusive of what I have experienced with my brothers.
an emcee, what do you consider your main strengths?
My main strength as an emcee is I know how to read. A lot of rappers cant read and if you cant
read you cant write. Not saying that some people dont write if you cant 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.
I was thinking about that today when I was coming from
the store. Im not a battle rapper. Im not gonna get out there and talk about
how Im gonna demolish you with the rhyme. Im gonna be a scholar. Im gonna be
a teacher, a student, a soldier. Im
gonna be a comrade. Im 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?
Im 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!
you think rappers have a higher level of responsibility in times like this?
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 aint
gonna name names, Yall know who yall are. Salute. The General knows.
What is the difference between the original Duck Down, Boot Camp run and the
The current one with Duck Down is expanding. A couple years ago, one of Dru Has
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 wasnt
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 havent 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! Thats just
classic. How did that happen? I dont know but Im happy. DJ Revolution,
another California, L.A. resident. How does Boot Camp East Coast keep mingling
with these West Coast guys? Because its Hip-Hop; we are an expansive culture.
We are not a culture meant to just be on this corner. Theres 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.
Its only right that after all these years in the game,
Duck Down has to expand. Its a natural progression because if you love what
you do youre going to work to advance. Youre not gonna want to be a cashier
at McDonalds forever. Hopefully youll 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.