Unless you’re from Philly, you probably only associate the Legendary Roots Crew as Black Thought, Questlove, and some guys that play instruments. However, that is not the case. The Roots crew runs deep – and two of its members could be dubbed as the “most known unknown” duo in all of Hip-Hop.
M.A.R.S Co-op, a.k.a. Black Caesar, and Malik B. – most known for their verses on Illadelph Halflife’s “Clones” by the Roots – checked in with AllHipHop.com to discuss their label, Tali Up Boyz. They also shared some valuable lessons on being a part of the Roots movement, today’s Hip-Hop (like what Malik really thinks of Drake), and surviving in the shadows of greatness.
AllHipHop.com: It’s been a minute since you’ve been on the scene. What’s been up?
M.A.R.S Co-Op: T.U.B., Tali Up Boyz, is the new label with myself and Malik B. We have D.N.A. (Dat N*gga Ant – not to be confused with battle rapper, DNA), Words from King Midas and Friends Vol. 1, and my project, The Power’s in the Tongue. The first single, “Black Ceasar”, is out now.
Lesson #1 – Rapping Reality in an Unreal Industry
M.A.R.S Co-Op: I have a lot more information to give people when I spit; it’s all reality to me. I don’t write about other people’s lives. Either you love it or hate it. We need another lane for this other type of music that we are making.
Malik B: That’s why we got T.U.B. Records. We can say whatever we want.
M.A.R.S Co-Op: I grew up in the streets. I didn’t grow up poor or f*cked up. I ran away from home, got out on the streets, shooting mofos, doing all types of sh*t. Luckily, at some point in my life, I did have a father. The music saved my life.
Lesson #2 – How to Deal with Censorship and Contract Expiration
Malik B: In the beginning, [the censoring] wasn’t like that. The [group's] manager would normally just approve songs. Now they start checking this and telling us take this out. It takes away from that UMMPH. I mean, it got to the point [where if] we made reference of the devil, all of the sudden we made to look like we worship the devil. Then, Def Jam will say something like, ‘Nah, take that out. People might get offended.’ And I’m like, it’s not even like that. Oh, and for the record, I was never fired from [The Roots]; my contract ran out.
M.A.R.S Co-Op: We brought the streets to The Roots. Early on, they was doing street festivals and stuff, and then me and Malik was doing stuff that our peoples liked. Me and Dice [Raw of The Roots] was from Logan, so our style was different. We was that street stuff. We came up with people like Larry Larr, Mike from Boyz II Men, so we knew what it was when it came to the music.
Lesson #3 – Keeping Philly’s Artistry in a “Clone” Landscape
Malik B: Man, it’s no artistry in the game. Philly is being looked at hard right now ‘cause Meek Mill is killing ‘em. It’s like this once every five years; somebody will come out of Philly blow, and then that’s it.
But, Drake? I think he soft. No, not soft – feminine.
AllHipHop.com: I hear you and Freeway are doing something with “Beard Gang”.
Malik B: Yeah, that’s my man. See, this is the thing. We from Logan, but Free is from down West Philly. So now, we got Jakk Frost, who was doing independent deals since like ’91. Wasn’t nobody doing that. But now I got some stuff coming out with them and Mr. Green. So now, you got Freeway, me, Jakk Frost, Sunwun, and Reef Tha Lost Cause.
AllHipHop.com: I saw the video for that, which was crazy! The patterns and the way it was put together…
Malik B: Yeah. I do that all day. I get the patterns and fill it up with words. I put all my content and fill up patterns with words. All of a sudden, we got a song – Hip-Hop Bee Bop. So, on my joint with Mr. Green, I’m just spitting and then they mixed it in with this dude on guitar. It’s ill. I’m having fun making music again.
Lesson #4 – Taking Stock and Moving Forward
M.A.R.S Co-Op: After getting jerked around in so many directions, we got T.U.B., and we putting out the stuff the streets want. Look for our projects – my single “Black Caesar” is out now. Then we got King Midas and Friends Vol. 1 in like three weeks through our distribution deal with SoulSpazm.
Follow M.A.R.S. Co-op and Malik B. on Twitter (@cooptaliupboyz and @malikoftheroots).