There is something about the brotherhood of Hip-Hop.
With all of the hood posturing that New York rappers exude in their rhymes, concepts of comradery and loyalty — grown man s##t overwhelms the spirit of the culture. This sense of brotherhood transcends the “the streets don’t owe you nothing” mindset that requires the daily uniform of Timbs and fitteds to drip the landscapes of each borough (and outer boroughs). It is far bigger than the “I gotta get mines, you gotta get yours” mentality that compromises cooperative economics, divides the hood into sets and crews, has grandmothers hanging out the windows over the bodegas, and telling the homies to get off the block. This brotherhood of Hip-Hop is simply the “tribe” in A Tribe Called Quest, the common “enemy” in PE, the “clan” in the Wu-Tang Clan, and the engine that “runs” RUN-DMC.
It is why Russell Simmons, Ralph McDaniels, and Luther Campbell are all of our uncles.
The brotherhood is rooted in the trust an emcee has when he offers his pen to a beat— masterfully altar-ing it for the prayer of perfection. It is why Mobb Deep and The Lox are two of the best rap groups to ever pick up a mic.
So, when Prodigy died on June 20, 2017, we cried for his partner-in-rhyme, Havoc, in more ways than one.
Of course, we cried because a life was lost and because the group that we have loved since Juvenile Hell would no longer be what it was. But our hearts also broke because we knew that this “brotherhood,” that we watched develop from childhood, had entered into a cycle of completion that neither emcee nor fan was ready. In a culture that rejects the comforting spirit of family, isolated by five or so districts on a map that none of us have defined, and makes everyone feel like the world is not a friend — we shed tears for what, at least musically, would be an unmatched loneliness for the QB lyricist and producer.
But then … we are revived with a reminder of that brotherhood … years later … in the August 1st Verzuz series.
We saw Dipset, reunited and dripping like Harlem do. But, in a flash of brilliance that is far more superior than the average “you had to be there” moment in this rap s##t, we saw The Lox.
We all saw them. United as brothers, who had easily four decades of relational honesty, creative ingenuity, and economic prosperity undergirding their flawless victory in this unconventional song battle.
And we thought … for a moment … like an ill Hip-Hop dream that you might ask the Good Lord to make come true … “What if …”
… Hip-Hop was birthed out of “what ifs.” And so was Wreckage Manner.
Wreckage Manmer is the collaborative project between Mobb Deep’s Havoc and The Lox’ Styles P. Produced by Hav, each song contains the skillful wordsmithing that anchored both juggernaut groups. Nikki Duncan-Smith sat down with the two to explore the concept of brotherhood in Hip-Hop at the video shoot for the first single off the project, “Nightmares 2 Dream.”
They talked about the craft of emceeing, the kinship of their era, and why this project is a must-have in any music lover’s stream library.
Moreover, it is the adoption of the brother left alone by the cruel abandonment of death, to be reborn as a stronger and more evolved man. Mostly, figuring it out on his own, but also through the friendships of another brother.
AllHipHop: How did y’all come up with the idea for you guys to collaborate on a new project?
Havoc: I was just showing me thinking about my own most favorite emcees and you know, one of the first people that came to mind was Styles P. Styles is one of my favorite emcees of all time. And I said to myself, “Damn, I want to do a project with son.” So, I gave him a call. I texted him up. And the rest is history.
AHH: What made you decide to want to work with Havoc (directing the question to Styles P)? Was it just because of your friendship?
Styles P: It’s Havoc. I mean come on … it’s Havoc from Mobb Deep.
I’m a lyricist. I love my genre. I love music, period. So, you know, it’s an honor and a privilege for me to be able to work with Hav. I’ve worked with him in the past. We have two incredible joints together: Big’s “Last Days” and “This Is How I Live” on my sophomore album. It was just our rapport over the years that made me want to do it. How he works and what he means to the culture. For me, anytime you get a chance to do something historic in your career, where you know you will look back and say, “I achieved that and I did that,” I feel it is mandatory to make that happen.
AHH: Is rapport important? How important is rapport when it comes to creating magic? People create stuff all day … but MAGIC is something different.
SP: I think rapport is important in your personal relationship and how you work. But as far as creating magic … magic only happens when it’s meant to be … meant to happen. You can’t invent chemistry. You can’t invent good chemistry. You can put two of the greatest artists in the world together, if they don’t have chemistry it is not going to work. It just won’t come outright. It will come out inauthentic. It will come out as some kind of b#######, really, to put it in layman’s terms.
AHH: There has to be some sort of methodology to it. Both of you are part of legendary groups and have had classic albums, how does this keep happening to the two of you over and over again? What is it? There has to be some sort of system, not chemistry … but some sort of formula for that to happen.
SP: The formula is respect. The formula is shared respect and admiration. Like, although he is more talented than be … because he can rhyme and produce. I just rhyme.
HV: Don’t listen to him.
SP: For me, in real terms, we’re the same age but he provided an option and a hope for me.
He was on first. I think, in this thing of ours, we often forget those who paved the way. Even though they may be our peers, he’s my parent. I’m grateful that he acknowledged me as a peer, but I still remember. I’m a guy who remembers the past a lot, so I remember working a stock job … leaving the stock job … hitting the block … moving work, and watching what they were doing. Just by them being able to do it, made me know, I had a chance at doing it.
Also, we are from the Golden Era. There’s not a little a lot of people you can say from the Golden Era … that made Golden Era s##t. Especially in New York City. It is this the f###### toughest space in the world. We got the most crucial critics that you will ever meet. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. And we were able to be dominant in that era and we are still alive, lasting, and relevant to the culture until this day. So, working with Hav was easy because I look at him with admiration and will always give him that nod of respect.
AHH: He’s been around for about 26 years just killing the game.
HV: The reason why I’ve worked with Styles is because I remember hearing about them and going, “Uh Oh!” When an artist can make you go “Uh Oh,” and make you get on your game … I’m a permanent fan. And I never forgot that feeling.
AHH: What was the first Mobb Deep song that you heard? And where were you when you first heard it … if you can remember?
SP: Definitely. I want to say around 12 grade. I don’t know if you know … but before they made Bob (Bobbito and Stretch Armstrong), they were talking s## on Buckshot s##t. At that time, they had a few s##ts underground that I knew. I can’t remember, but that’s how much we know about The Mobb.
God bless the dead, my homie Amari. He’s in heaven now, but his energy is here. He was a Hip-Hop connoisseur. We were coming up, you couldn’t just find music. Hip-Hop is different now because of the internet … But back then … what made you really Hip-Hop was when you were fishing to find a dope s##t first. Hearing for yourself who was gonna be them n#####. Fishing … Who you heard was killing it in ciphers and in the studios and other places? So, they (Mobbs Deep) were ringing. I knew about them before they actually made it. I knew about them by the time “Shook Ones” came out. When you’re a Hip-Hop head, you knew about them. We knew they were coming when they were talking s##t on buckshot s##t. They had a couple of things already circulating.
AHH: Where were you when you first heard The Lox joint? Or their voice … since people knew their voices before their project came?
HV: It was a little different for me. Because this was going to be the first time I was going to do a beat for Big.
So, I do the beat for Big. I have no idea who’s gonna be on the record. But then when I finally heard the record, The Lox were on the record. So, that’s the first time I heard, The Lox. So, I’m listening. And I’m like, “Uh, Oh!” It was one of those things like, “Yo, these are dope emcees expanding the board.”
They were from Yonkers, and I was like, “Oh, s##t. I thought he was from where I’m from.” That’s how dope they sounded. That’s not to take anything away from Yonkers. But it had me saying, “Do these n##gas live on the next block?” Because we are talking about the same s##t. I still feel like that to this day. When they rap … I’m like “Damn, you sure we not from the same place? The same neighborhood?
AHH: There is an energy that these young guys got to see for the first time with the Verzuz. There was a fire in your eyes. A hunger in your eye that was absent from all the other Verzuz. Hav, what did you think when you watched the Verzuz and saw The Lox up there against another sound group from the Golden Era?
HV: First of all, I already knew that they were gonna win. Not to take anything away from Dipset. I spoke to Styles after that, like maybe like a week or so, and I said to him, “Yo, you mutherf##kas are superheroes!”
AHH: what are the things that people may never think about Styles in the studio, that you were able to peep?
HV: What I peeped about Styles P is that he works fast. You send him a track, he’ll send it right back. I am sure if the track is wack, he probably won’t send it right back. (laughter) I did send a dud and it didn’t come back.
SP: it wasn’t on the vibe we were on.
HV: But that’s what keeps you sharp as a producer, you feel me? So I love that.
AHH: What do you say that most people will never think about Hav as a producer and emcee that you peeped?
SP: His hunger. As an emcee, it always was interesting to me that he was an emcee and a producer.
I always feel like he has an incredible talent. It’s hard to explain this, but he has a soulful ear that matches every time-era. He is sending me joints and I am like “I got to show up, this is Hav.”
I work at a pretty nice pace for an emcee. But it’s something about when somebody sends you some s##t and it just sends you in a zone … that is different. It’s no longer work. It’s more like a tap-in. I have days where I go to work and I have to find the zone. I have to dig through the beats and then by the third beat, I got something. But that wasn’t what this was or felt like. It was like if we run it up the court and I already know where to go on the court for the win. I know what he’s gonna give me. I know where to stand. I know I can catch it and I know that I can work with what he’s gonna give me.
I always think about how people are going to feel when they hear the music.
That’s my biggest thing? I felt like what he was sending was tapping into our era and the new generation. He is able to do that. I don’t know how but he was able to give us the golden era, and still was able to bring it into the now. As an emcee, if you hear my last few projects, I searched for that. I searched for young people who are able to tap into that old feeling.
AHH: You guys are emcees’ emcees. Were you trying to best each other lyrically?
SP: We went into the project like that. This is where you can see what I mean when I say “he’s the driver,” because he’s doing both. I had an easier job than he had. He said something that woke me up as an emcee that’s complimentary and was a compliment. He said, “I’m up. You got me back where I needed to be. I’m up. I’m on it.” Then I heard what he was saying … and was like “Ooo … we have a mission to complete.
AHH: Havoc… How do you do that? How do you rhyme on something that you created? While you’re making the beat? Are you thinking, “Oh, I am gonna say this here … or does it come later?”
HV: It comes later. Because, by that time, I am so used to the beat it is like cooking. After you finish cooking, usually you don’t want to eat. When you make the beat, you don’t really feel like f##king writing. But, then when you hear somebody else, another artist rapping on it … one that you appreciate … It kind of puts the fire to you. Then you are like, “Oh, s##t, I gotta write some s##t.”
I work best with dope emcees. I don’t work good by myself. I need something to put it against you Working with Prodigy, I always understood that it was f###### crazy, and then working with Styles, it’s the same f##king thing: two extraordinary emcees. By nature, they will just lift the skills of anybody else around.
AHH: That’s a great transition. When talking about Mobb Deep, people will always bring up Prodigy as an ill emcee. People always bring up Jada Kiss, in this conversation of the Top Five Dead or Alive. Do you think that sometimes, people front on either of your pens? Do they forget how dope both of you are?
SP: I think it depends on how you look at your fan base. I think if you look at your fan base from an egotistical point, you could get caught up in that. I get people all the time to come up to me and say, “What up, P. I love you. Kiss my dude.” “Yo what up, P? I love you. I f##k with Sheek more?”
I’m not on that thing. I am a grown man. I know that if you tap into what they’re saying, you tap into what I’m saying. We are from the same crew. We brothers. Still, we all are just approaching this from a different angle. I don’t really get caught up in that. When you are able to make a name for yourself throughout all of that, it makes you even hungrier. It makes you get into your bag more.
People have asked me, “Yo, how do you feel like being so underrated?” I’m not underrated. I’m not for everybody. You got to be on a certain kind of vibration to tap into what I’m saying. I’m comfortable with that.
AHH: And even that. … you are for a lot of people. That’s a real grown man answer. There are a lot of different types of people but they are all needed to make this Hip-Hop thing dope. And then there are these lists …
SP: As an emcee, I’ve been talking about these lists for years. Nobody ever really says anything to me about them so I’m comfortable in my position. Not only that, when you run alongside the best … if you’re comfortable. Our lists, me and Hav, of who we’ve rhymed alongside. And that’s pretty solid. You don’t just get to rhyme next to Big. You don’t get to rhyme next to these people if you don’t do this.
AHH: Talking about grown man s##t. You guys are both extremely health conscious. Does that help you keep your stamina when you guys go into a project like this? Did you both know that you all shared this interest?
HV: Styles, probably didn’t know what kind of tip I was on, but I definitely knew about him. Being health-conscious is a responsibility. You got kids. You are gonna have grandkids. Even if you don’t, we still want to be here for a while. So, that’s one thing that you just have to pay attention to. Regardless of who you are.
SP: Nah, I knew. Because Kiss told me about you and your bike. We check-in.
HV: (Laughter) I forgot about that. I see Kiss out there doing his thing. We know about the juices. We know about veganism and in fact, my mom cooks vegan food and all that. That was another reason why I wanted to connect with him. Even though I didn’t vocalize that (or that was like a focal point). Just on the strength that he is conscious like that, he was somebody I could f### with. We are on the same frequency.
I think that’s just part of life, not even so much making music. I think where our community is heading, for me, is bigger than making music. As a Black man, Brown man, Black King, Brown King… whatever you want to call it … I think it’s important. One, you don’t really know. I could walk out of this building right now, and get hit by a f###### car or slip on the M&M and break my neck.
But I think the message that you leave to people who are watching you is that it is a message that is important for your community. I think that’s the most important thing for the Brown community to understand is that you don’t get a shot at all this good s### and nice s### and then can’t enjoy it.
People think if you’re healthy, you got to be a tree hugger. You got to be eating granola and just got your fist up in the air. You can’t like Rolexes, foreign cars, and fashion. No, being healthy is just being healthy. It doesn’t change the perspective or your persona of who you are. You will grow as you’re getting healthier. I always felt like there was a stigma within the Hip-Hop community; somebody has to be either Rasta, a doctor, a tree hugger, a granola, college-educated to be on some family s### … but the reality is in the hood … is something different.
What’s the number one important rule in the most ghetto places in the world? Survival. That said … survival, the 10 toes down survival is about figuring out how to get out of situations and be the best that you can be. I’m saying go on plant-based but I’m nine years in on Nov. 31.
I still do Turkey drives because I’m from a poor community and the people are hungry and that’s what they will eat, and I’m pretty sure when God made animal he knew somebody was going to eat it. But I’m gonna tell the people that I don’t eat it and for them to stop eating it. I will also say that if they don’t stop, to get a free-range one. It’s more so a balanced thing. Because the reality of it is, we have a lot of s### we already have on our shoulders and our back. Besides that, we got to understand that the inside of our bodies is as important as the outside of our bodies.
These are lessons, we have to engage and fight for that survival for the next generation. So that’s why I’m really passionate about it … and I’m African.
AHH: As we wrap up, can you say something to Hav that you don’t think he knows you feel about him? And you say something to your
SP: I tell Havoc I love him. He knows I love him. I told Hav that I admired him. I looked up to him before I got here. I respect him. Everything about his work ethic is amazing. Oh, but I didn’t tell him this … I’m jealous because he could rhyme and make beats very well! Man, I can’t produce. I was gonna ask him for a producing session.
And one other thing I wanted to say, and this goes to my son too if he’s paying attention, I definitely want to bring my son around Hav … just so he can be able to sit down let him soak up the energy.
My son’s a dope producer. He’s made a lot of dope s### for me and I’m proud of him. And he got that golden era in him. He does fire, s###. But I want him to sit with Hav.
HV: I think I heard him. I heard you say that on the track.
SP: So, I would love that. I look up to this man for what he’s done for the culture and I admire his strength. I admire how he was able to hold that legacy down. He was in a two-man group and he’s half of the group now, but he represents both very well. He holds the legacy in the world and he’s continuing with the legacy.
HV: And for me, I admire his outspokenness. Show me how to be outspoken like that, because when I’m in the crowd I’m always quiet.
SP: You know … I just don’t know how to bite my tongue.
HV: I am hoping that rubs off. I am gonna be in another room somewhere when no one is around and I am like ‘shut the f### up. When I am with him, it rubs off on me. This brother is so outspoken. I just love that he has never changed. Stay like that.
Wreckage is a synonym for Havoc. Manner is a synonym for Styles. The combination of both spirits is something that the culture needs. The whole culture. Whether they know it or not. And it is more than just a pet project from two of the most prolific legacy artists in the culture … it is. … a road map to the agency that Hip-Hop has over generations. It is textured by street culture, peppered by consciousness, and altogether wrapped in heart.