Team Blackout: We In The House

We’ve seen it a million times, reality stars turning themselves into full fledged entertainment stars. Or, doing their best at it. The MTV reality show Run’s House introduced Rev Run, a Hip-Hop pioneer, to a new class of viewers who may not know his history while simultaneously thrusting his family into the bright lights of fame. Viewers learned that Run’s oldest son, Jo Jo Simmons, wanted to become a rapper. He along with his childhood friends, Reggie and Zach formed the rap group Team Blackout and signed a record a deal with Latchkey Records. Even though you might be a skeptic don’t count them out just yet. With their debut album, Lights Out, dropping in August, Team Blackout is a part of a new generation of young Hip-Hoppers who only want to do them. They mix youthful exuberance with playful beats and natural song choices. After all they are just teenagers, trying to balance school, music, and being young. We caught up with them to tell us about deciding to get into the music game and why the “good life” portrayed on Run’s House isn’t as care free and easy as you may think.AllHipHop.com: On the show Run’s House we saw you going from recording in your home studio to getting a record deal. Was there anything about the process of getting signed that was surprising?Zach: I guess in the meeting…it wasn’t surprising…but in the meeting, the whole advance thing.AllHipHop.com: The money you thought you would get as an advance right?Zach: Yes the money. It’s all good it wasn’t really anything. That’s not what we’re really about. The money is definitely a good look. We’re just doing it for the love of it. We were just happy to have an interview and for them [Latchkey Records] to even listen to our music, critique it and consider us as being their artists. We’re just excited about that.AllHipHop.com: I did listen to the album and it sounds very youthful and fun. What concept were you going for?JoJo: That’s basically where we going with it. We were just having fun when we recorded it. Literally just having fun and enjoying ourselves in the studio trying to bring back that fun into Hip-Hop. At the same time we’re still focusing on what we’re saying. We were still trying to be lyrical and show off some skills.AllHipHop.com: Was there something about Latchkey Records that made you want to sign with them?JoJo: It’s because they were an up and coming label and we wanted to get big together. We wanted to help them as they wanted to help us so we can all come up together; and have the amazing story that we made each other.AllHipHop.com: Sometimes when you grow up around the music industry you may not necessarily want to be an artist because you’ve seen all sides of it, what is it that made you guys want to get in music?JoJo: I love to do it. I can’t see myself doing anything else. I like writing. It’s what I do, I just like to rap. It’s not just because my dad was a rapper it’s because it’s what I feel. I’m doing me.Reggie: When it comes to rapping it’s a freedom of speech. You can show how your personality is to everybody.  I feel like when you’re a rapper you have that swagger and that control on the stage. You can speak your mind about everything that you’re going through and people can connect.Zach: The first Hip-Hop video that I saw that made me really want to get into rap was “Can I Get A…” I was mad young, like 10 or 11. Just watching Jay and Ja Rule on the video I respected their swagger. That was just something that made me want to do that. I used to write my rhymes but I never really took it that seriously. It was just a dream for me but I didn’t think it could really happen. Then eventually it started all clicking. I started listening to other artists like Nas and Eminem and I just started feeding off of what they came with.AllHipHop.com: Are you guys comfortable about being in front of the camera? Not you JoJo, I know you are! [Laughs]Zach: We’re getting used to it. In the beginning it was uncomfortable being in front of the camera. We’re just going to have to deal with it. This is the life that we chose so we have to get used to it.Reggie: I felt uncomfortable when the cameras were on. When we’re alone everybody was chill but when the cameras were on I felt stunned.  I was just so nervous I just sat back and was quiet. It benefited me at the end. I got used to it.AllHipHop.com: Do you think it helped with your media interviews?Zach: Yes. It was good practice.JoJo: It definitely made us more comfortable in doing interviews. It’s like second nature.AllHipHop.com: On the show you guys graduated from high school and were going off to college. Are you still in school?Zach: We’re all in school. We’re about to be sophomores in college.AllHipHop.com: That’s good to hear. So how do you balance that?Zach: Right now school is out and we are just focusing on the music and getting this album out. We’re going to be there next semester but it depends on the whole situation on what’s going on with us. If it [the album] blows up and people are feeling it we might have to take a leave of absence.AllHipHop.com: Were you recording while in school?Zach: Yes, we were recording and in school at the same time. It was really hard to juggle both of them. To focus on my school work and get my homework done and then at night take a train up to JoJo’s crib in New Jersey; then recording late at night and going back to my dorm to wake up early to go to class was hard. But we worked it out.JoJo: That was probably the hardest part for me, being in the studio until like 1 in the morning and then waking up at 5:30 to leave for school. I never really had homework in my school because I go to an audio engineering school so it all tied in with me. The only hard part was me waking up in the morning.Reggie: I had classes like Philosophy and all these hard classes but then I had to go to the studio. I didn’t get a chance to study for my philosophy midterm but I was still able to pass. It was pretty hard to balance. I had to take the train to Long Island and then I had to go to New Jersey so it was pretty hectic.AllHipHop.com: Who in the group got the 3.0?Reggie: Me.JoJo: I had a 2.8.AllHipHop.com: Okay, that’s good. What would you say to people in your age group who are in college and want to get into the music industry?JoJo: I say don’t quit either. Don’t quit school thinking, “I’m going to be a big super star,” and don’t quit music. There’s always that personal time when you can go to the studio to record or write your rhymes. If you can’t balance it then that just means that maybe it’s not for you.Reggie: If you want be an artist chase your dream but be realistic. Stay in school because education is the key to success. People succeed in this industry by luck or by being blessed. If you fall you’ve got to have a plan B. Zach: Reading is fundamental. Math is key in everything you do. Especially so you will know your business and know who you’re dealing with, so you can’t just put school to the side. Stimulating your mind keeps you sharp. It keeps you prepared.

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