Mista Long: Long Road Back

F Few can forget the classic bridge of Black Sheep’s “The Choice Is Yours”. People at house parties and clubs got low to ground immediately when they heard “engine engine number nine…” erupt from the speakers. That song still fills dance floors 15 years later, whilee the duo of Dres and Mista Lawnge failed to equal the success of their seminal hit.

Fast forward to 2006 and the sonic mastermind behind Black Sheep changed his name to a more grammatically correct, and easy to pronounce, Mista Long, continues to make beats, and released a Hip-Hop purists’ escape with his latest mixtape “Class of ‘89”. For months there were rumblings of a new Black Sheep album in the works, but when October rolled around the album dropped Long was conspicuously absent. The veteran sat down to speak on being a lyricist, Dres, and the significance of the Class Of ’89. You could get with Dres, you could get with Long, or you could support both, and keep the Black Sheep engine chugging.

AllHipHop.com: You’ve been off the scene for a few years. Why the long hiatus?

Mista Long: Truthfully…’94, ’95 second album [Black Sheep’s Non-Fiction], record company [Mercury Records] 20 million in debt, folded, umm Polygram bought Def Jam. They felt like that’s all the Hip-Hop they needed, so if Def Jam didn’t pick you up, then, hey, you were just homeless.

AllHipHop.com: Wow.

Mista Long: So that’s when I dissolved the group and I decided I’m getting outta the biz and becoming a regular type dude.

AllHipHop.com: How was that time spent?

Mista Long: Just finding myself. Doing regular s**t, family s**t. Still doing beats for the love of it, you know.

AllHipHop.com: Okay, let’s back up a second. You said you dissolved Black Sheep, but Black Sheep just put out an album. Are you still down with Black Sheep?

Mista Long: Nah, nah, nah.

AllHipHop.com: But you were a part of that movement. How did that happen?

Mista Long: As of recent I dissolved it because… first and foremost… if Guru was to go out and do a bunch of songs with a bunch of different producers, you can’t really call that a Gang Starr album. If Q-Tip was to do a solo album, he can’t call it A Tribe Called Quest.

AllHipHop.com: So you’re saying Dres went out and …

Mista Long: All the original music from the start was remixed off.

AllHipHop.com: Was there a falling out between you two?

Mista Long: Throughout the career of Black Sheep, there has always been some bad history, creative differences, and s**t like that. My style is one way; his style is another way. You know it’s funny with duos. That’s usually how it goes. One’s apples one’s oranges. Pete Rock, CL Smooth, Guru, Premier, even the EPMD situation.

AllHipHop.com: EPMD recently got back together, is there a chance you and Dres will collaborate again?

Mista Long: I can’t tell the future. [The split] is of recent. A couple of months ago I decided to step away from the entire situation.

AllHipHop.com: But wait. Don’t you get paid for Dres using the Black Sheep name without you?

Mista Long: Nah, he changed it to Dres’ Black Sheep.

AllHipHop.com: Let’s shift gears and go back to your classic debut A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing. Dres was the more visible member, but you contributed heavily to the album. Do you feel you got the proper credit for your lyricism back then?

Mista Long: Uh, I really wasn’t in it for the lyrics. I was more into production. I just did the lyrical aspect as kind of a release. Besides being comic relief on the lyrics, I really wasn’t deep into it. Dres wanted me to do a little rhyming on [the album], so… I initially didn’t want to be in a group, man. I just wanted to produce.

AllHipHop.com: But the content of your current mixtape “Class of ’89” sounds like you champion pure lyricism…

Mista Long: That just comes from knowing that if I’m gonna touch a mic, I gotta have the skill. That’s the era that I’m from. [On] the “Class of ’89” you’re dealing with some real dudes on the microphone.

AllHipHop.com: That’s true.

Mista Long: I mean, ’86 to ’90 was really treacherous. You couldn’t touch a mic if you was wack. You can’t touch a mic around Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, KRS One, LL, come on, man you know what it is.

AllHipHop.com: The golden era.

Mista Long: N***as would chew you alive.

AllHipHop.com: True. I mean, I’m at a loss. Did you want to rhyme like this back then? I’m hearing the new music and I’m thinking where was the lyricism back in ’91? Was there pressure from the label to get you to rhyme more sexually, I mean there’s some of that libidinal content on this joint…

Mista Long: Nah, no pressure from the label, I was on some beat s**t. Also, it’s been a long time. Skills get stepped up over the years. Back then, I was just idolizing the cats doing it.

AllHipHop.com: Do you plan to release anymore music after “Class of ‘89”?

Mista Long: Oh yeah. No doubt. The “Class of ’89 Part II” and it goes on and on. I got thousands of beats. It’s just a matter of finding inspiration in cats that’s really keeping it Hip-Hop.

AllHipHop.com: There’s a new generation of listeners who may not be familiar with your music, how do you hope to reach that audience with your new work?

Mista Long: You know, I really am doing it because I want to. I’m not trying to capture Lil’ Jon fans or Slim Thug fans, they wouldn’t f**k with me anyway [laughs]. I’m trying to do music that I love and put it out there, and whoever I reach, I reach. Let me elaborate on what I said earlier as far as doing it ‘cause I want to. A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing was done the way we wanted to do it. We were doing it just to have fun – doing s**t that we thought was dope, we had no expectations. We were a new group fresh outta high school. We didn’t know that s**t was gonna do what it did. We were in the studio just doing us, and that was the best feeling in the world.

AllHipHop.com: What made you decide to mentor up and coming artists?

Mista Long: I mean, I give beats to strangers. As long as these artists are enthusiastic to do it, I’ll help ‘em out. I always try to tell cats not to listen to what’s going on and mimic that. What makes you who you are is the talent you have.

AllHipHop.com: How is today’s music going down a collision course in your eyes?

Mista Long: It’s stopped being about the talent and all about the money 10, 12 years ago, man. Nobody’s concerned about if you can rhyme or if the beat is hot. Hip-Hop is still there, don’t get me wrong. Put it this way….I’m tired of hearing the same song and seeing the same video with different faces and voices…to sum it all up.

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