Bishop Lamont: The Platinum Backpacker

On one hand you can count D.O.C., Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Eminem. On the other, you can list Lady of Rage, Hittman, and Joe Beast. Throughout his decades-long run of music mastery, Dr. Dre has pulled a lot of new artists to work with him. Some have become overnight superstars, while others waited until they faded from sight. Dre’s latest discovery has been Carson, California’s Bishop Lamont. As critics make comparisons to both sides of the scale, rest assured that Bishop Lamont is nothing like you’ve ever heard before.

Working with the one producer that only Hip-Hop’s highest class can touch, Bishop Lamont, the self-proclaimed “Platinum Backpacker” can’t speak enough about the little guys. Whether it’s early ‘90s producers like Lord Finesse, Evil Dee, and Pete Rock, or he’s championing Dilated Peoples, Madlib, and Self-Scientific, this is what happens when a man of the people gets the deal of his dreams. While some write off Bishop as The Game 2.0, shows you why the Bishop isn’t in the pulpit in a “Church For Thugs.” As Reformation gets its finishing touches, get to know the most patient man in Hip-Hop, the music that saved his life, and why Bishop Lamont, the one guy who doesn’t have to, might be throwing Nas’ Hip-Hop a life-preserver big enough for 15 years of Hard to Earn history… You’re the first person with a mainstream profile to mention people like Oh No, Roc C, and others. To what extent would you say you’re like them – a man of the people, or an underground artist?

Bishop Lamont: That’s what I started with. It’s just that since I signed to Dr. Dre, people started treating me like I’m someone else; I’m the same person. My backpack is just dipped in platinum now. I’ve always been a street n***a that was a Hip-Hop n***a. I was at Good Life, at Project Blowed, at the Unity concerts, The Wake-Up Shows, Friday Night Flavors with Mr. Choc. People just don’t know how to connect with you. “How you gonna know about Dilated Peoples, Slum Village, and Ras Kass?” Come on, dude. That’s their perception. I took the backpack moniker as a proud thing, as a badge. We’ve seen that before with people like Xzibit. Being on Interscope, with Dre, do you feel pressure to grow into that platinum, and not enough of that backpack?

Bishop Lamont: No, it’s no pressure on me. It’s not even a thought in my mind. I’m gonna put all the motherf**kers I want on my album, but there’s just so many people I want to work with from the underground scene that I want to work – that’s my pressure. Right now, I already got Lord Finesse, [DJ Premier], Pete Rock, J Dilla, Madlib, at the same, I still got my Dre records – he’s doing five or six for the album – I got my Scott Storch records, I still gotta get [DJ] Quik on there, Evil Dee on there, I got Just Blaze blessin’ me, I got Bink! blessin’ me, I got Buckwild, Salaam Remi. That’s the only stretch, tryin’ to put it together; I got a gang of crazy 9th Wonder records. How can I balance it and make sure all these mothaf**kas is represented on the record? If I can’t do it on this album, I gotta do it on the second album. I’m trying to hit it so hard and put the underground scene back on the map, and bring it above ground. The only thing there is – is good and bad music. As you list those people that you mention, at no point in Hip-Hop have we seen that. The closest thing might be Jay-Z’s Black Album or Biggie’s Ready to Die as far as covering all the bases. That’s groundbreaking.

Bishop Lamont: Production is important. Mothaf**kas expect you to be like, “I just want Pharrell to do all my records, and Scott Storch.” They forget Scott Storch started with The Roots on the Organix album, they forget that Scott understands Hip-Hop, the Run-DMCs, the Cella Dwellas, the Boogiemonsters, the Stetsasonics…it’s imperative that we bring that back and still be successful; it can be done. People don’t expect me to hang out with Slum Village; that’s my f**kin’ family. Elzhi is one of the dopest n***as to me, ever. [Slum Village producer] Black Milk and I are doing an album together called Caltroit, bringing Cali and Detroit together. Talib [Kweli] is one of my favorite MCs, Madlib and Dilla, when they did [Jaylib] together, just dope s**t. All the people that are d**k-riders with trends, they’ll wanna go get these [albums]. We saw Glasses Malone appear on Roc C’s album All Questions Answered album. Do you think you’re in a situation where you can work with these guys just as easily as they can work with you? Will the paperwork get in the way?

Bishop Lamont: That’s just a handshake. It ain’t nothin’ to me. It ain’t about makin’ money, it’s about makin’ a movement stronger and recognizin’ dope n***as. I did a mixtape record with Little Brother, as well as doin’ something with Kardinal Offishall. It’s not about paperwork. Look at the n***as who is movin’ together, that brings up everybody’s value simultaneously. You mentioned Cella Dwellas. Nobody brings that up anymore. How many records or CDs do you own these days?

Bishop Lamont: I got too many. That’s probably why I put such a dent in my advance [budget], ‘cause I’m always rebuying old CDs. I got my tapes, but you [play them until the words are inaudible]. I would say over 20,000 CDs just to be safe. I still got these motherf**kin’ things on vinyl and cassette [too]. I grew up on Cella Dwellas, Lords of the Underground. Das EFX, Keith Murray – that’s the s**t that’s important to me. They kept me out of trouble. I was at home listenin’ to they records instead of in the street sellin’ drugs and shootin’ n***as. They’re the reason I was in high school tellin’ teachers, “F**k you, I’mma be rich.” I didn’t know how, but [they helped me]. It’s my responsibility to recognize a Keith Murray, an Erick Sermon, a Redman from Muddy Waters or What? Thee Album, because I can remember where I was when I first heard that album. That s**t is exciting to me ‘cause that’s when it used to be fun to me – when I first heard [Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s] “Brooklyn Zoo” or [Wu-Tang Clan’s] “Da Mysteries of Chessboxin’” or when I first heard Biggie on the Supercat remix, or “Buncha N***as” on Heavy D’s Blue Funk album. That’s what I have to vocalize about, ‘cause all these kids think “old school” is 106 & Park playin’ “Toss it Up” by 2Pac. No n***a, that’s ’96! To me, that’s not that long ago. You said Hip-Hop kept you out of the streets. Mitchy Slick pointed out to me this year that no West Coast superstar has ever been able to exist, without ties to the street. That said, how do you feel?

Bishop Lamont: We havin’ this interview, so obviously, something’s workin’ right. Dre wanted to sign me. We doing Detox, it’s there. It’s just about n***as being themselves. N***as is so concerned with bein’ gangstas. I’m always [asking], “Who’s really a man?” That s**t is not nothin’ to me. It’s about me spittin’ this pimpin’, and puttin’ some s**t down for Hip-Hop. “I’m a gangsta, I’m real, f**k with me!” I respect the n***as in the streets, be they killas, dope-dealers, Muslims, scholars, squares – I have people’s respect. Can’t nothin’ but a man and a real mothaf**ka get that. That’s where I leave it. Dr. Dre is my best friend, Busta Rhymes is my best friend, Dame Dash is my business consultant, I have Jay-Z’s respect, what the f**k do I got to say? People act like you’re still unheard. You were all over Warren G’s last album In the Mid-Nite Hour. To what extent, although people focus on Dre, would you say Warren put you on?

Bishop Lamont: Warren G has been instrumental in everything that we’re talkin’ about thus far. Remember, if it wasn’t for Warren G, there never would have been a Snoop Dogg, a Nate Dogg, a Dogg Pound. He brought that Snoop Dogg demo to Dr. Dre. So indirectly, directly, not only did he create Death Row, but he also saved Def Jam. N***as never give Warren his props! Warren saved me. Warren put me in the game. It’s important that that’s stressed, but people are only concerned with what Dr. Dre’s doing and what I’m doing with Dr. Dre, when I’ve had four or five records on the radio, when I’ve been doing s**t with Warren G, when I’ve been on video games, when I’ve been doing mixtapes. I understand that’s the perception of how the industry works. If Dr. Dre says you’re hot, or Jay-Z says you’re hot, then you’re hot. How long has Self Scientific been fresh? How long has DJ Muggs and the Soul Assassins movement been fresh? How long has Dilated Peoples been fresh? Jurassic 5? Slum Village? Little Brother? That s**t frustrates me. On a typical day for you, how many chumps ask you about Detox?

Bishop Lamont: Oh my God! Imagine being at the f**kin’ gym, tryin’ to do pull-ups and motherf**kas is askin’ you about Dr. Dre, Detox, and “Can you listen to my demo?” Go to Red Lobster, [same thing]. It’s a double-edged sword. I appreciate the blessing, but at the same time, my office hours are from nine-to-five. [Laughs]. It’s Burger King. I mop the floors, I fry the fries, I do the drive-thru, but I can’t ever take my uniform off. When I get home, motherf**kas is askin’ me for a milkshake and a Whopper. But how often do you have to pull back and remember yourself doing that with Dre?

Bishop Lamont: Let me explain something. I was on the set of [The Game’s] “Dreams” and Delaney [of Czar Entertainment] passed [my demo] to Dre, ‘cause he asked for one. I never bother artists for s**t like that, ‘cause I know what n***as go through. I try to listen to demos as much as I can. But it’s also a thing of personal space. People gotta under, just ‘cause I’m signed to Dr. Dre don’t mean I’m rich already. I have to pave my way. I got a crew of people I’ve been down with for years I’m tryin’ to help. It’s a long-ass line. You mentioned The Game. After he took some pot-shots at you, have you spoken?

Bishop Lamont: We still haven’t had a chance to talk. I got love for Game. He just was in a situation where thought, “Oh, I’ma lash out at Aftermath, and I’ma diss Bishop.” He never knew me well enough to speak on me. I heard him when he went on radio and apologized to me on KDAY and Power. Still, as men, we have to sit down and talk ‘cause there’s a bigger situation to repair, and that’s him and his brother Big Fase 100. It’s about brothers, family, it’s not about f**kin’ rap. Okay, so what’s the timetable for Reformation?

Bishop Lamont: Man, it’s up to Dre. I’m finishing up my record. He’s about to do four, five, or six for it. We’re doing Detox. So really, at the end of the day, honestly, it’s on Dre. I’m not in no rush to not have no privacy. You’re excited though, talking about it… I know you wanna move on to the promotion and the next project too…

Bishop Lamont: I already see it happenin’, just by us havin’ this conversation, and knowin’ people wanna talk to my monkey-ass. When it’s somethin’ this big, that’s been in my heart since I was a kid, I’m on God’s schedule. God is gonna interpret Dre’s schedule for it. Learn to hurry up and wait. Don’t force the universe. The universe is gonna align for you.