Genovese & Gustapo: Boot Camp

From the jump off, Yonkers rapper Genovese proclaimed “Everybody want to blackball Gen, but in this game Gen ain’t got no friends,” on the hate-fest “F**k Y’all” from his unreleased debut My America.

That statement appeared to become true when weeks before his debut was to drop in 2001, the Italian-American rapper was released from his contract with Universal. Still unaware of what happened, industry blackballing is one of Joseph Genovese’s hunches for his departure.

After riding a wave of hype from his mixtape offerings like the street banger “Revolve Like the Doors” with Styles P and gaining support from the likes of the Notorious B.I.G. and Nas, Genovese still had a harsh introduction to the music biz.

Now, Genovese is focused on a new project and is upbeat about his future in the game. He’s linked up with his cousin Gustapo from Queens, and the duo is looking to soon drop their First Cousins project on Gustapo’s Illseed Entertainment. The upstart label already released an album from Gustapo’s first group, Nature Born, in 1999.

The artist is confident that the indie route will lead him and his cousin into the spotlight and bring back some New York City street rap. How did you first get into rap music?

Genovese: I started doing the music maybe about when I was about 14, 15. DMX was real big in Yonkers, and he was like an influence for me. He used to put the tapes out, and I used to get his tapes. I just started messing around with it, and one day I just figured I was good at it. I had -- you know, you start off with the old school turntables in your house. I just started doing it, and then I met up with Styles ‘cause I went to school with Styles and the Lox. We we’re tight together. I started doing stuff -- like my stuff came out on Clue tapes -- and then you know it just took off from there. You got the deal with Universal around what time?

Genovese: That was about 2000. How close were you to releasing an album?

Genovese: Nobody ever seen anything like that in music history. We shot a $150,000 video [for “My Life”]. I was promoting in the magazines for seven straight months with Nelly and everybody. I was in over eight different magazines. I had radio play. I went on promotional tours. And then I had a release date of Jan. 30 [2001] and on Jan. 3, I got a call from Universal saying that -- just stuff happened. I never really got an answer from them. It was just a crazy situation there, and nobody really had an answer for me. It could have been hate in the game maybe because I am Italian. It seemed like at the time Eminem was hot and labels were scooping up a lot of White rappers. You think the novelty kind of wore off and that might have had something to do with it?

Genovese: Nah. You know what it is, Eminem -- yeah, all right maybe Eminem. I think maybe with Universal, with Nelly blowin’ up -- cause once Nelly blew up, they basically got rid of everybody. They got rid of Rakim, Sticky Fingaz, Tracey Lee. So it could have been something with Nelly. I don’t think it has nothing to do with Eminem, but you never know. How you know Dre ain’t called Universal and say, “You know what, this kid’s coming out, we don’t want nobody to come out.” ‘Cause Eminem is like the hero for White people. He’s like the great White hope. I’m not knockin’ him. The kid’s a sick rapper, but what I’m sayin’ -- I don’t know, who knows. See that’s the s**t in the music game that you never know, it’s the underlying things that are never going to come out. Yeah, you never knew what happened.

Genovese: Yeah. You never know what happens, but, you know, things happen for a reason. White rappers are white rappers, but you know what? Eminem didn’t make his mark in the streets. He made his mark from MTV. He made his mark from just coming out for white kids. I made my mark on the streets, and to me that’s one of the hardest things for a white rapper -- an Italian rapper -- to do. You talk about the streets, you kind of kept your name out there with the mixtapes?

Genovese: That’s what it is. Back in the days, that’s all you had was mixtapes. You didn’t have the Internet. It wasn’t independent like it is now. Now you can put your own music out. Now, it’s all politics. Supposedly, Biggie wanted you for Junior M.A.F.I.A. Tell me a little about that.

Genovese: [Jadakiss] introduced me to Biggie when they were recording the first album [Money, Power & Respect]. Probably like 1996. He couldn’t believe that my name was Genovese. He’s like, “Dude, that’s your real name, duke?” He had heard the song I had did with Styles, so he was like, “Yo, I’m doing a whole new Junior M.A.F.I.A. You would fit right in the picture.” At that time I was kind of with Ruff Ryders, and we talked about it, and we was supposed to meet Big in like May. I was supposed to talk to him in May, ‘cause that was the time he was gonna do it, and then he died. So, that didn’t work. Nas took my s**t to Sony. That didn’t work. Jermaine Dupri took my s**t to Sony. That didn’t work. They met with Donny Ienner, the president of Sony, and he was like, “Dude, Genovese is the hottest rapper, but you know what there’s too much politics with his name. You can’t do nothing with him.” Imagine going up there with Jermaine Dupri and Nas and nothing happens. Then I met with Irv Gotti and Lyor Cohen. All these dudes I’ve sat and met with. Clue wanted to sign me. It was just a crazy situation. I done ran through and been with everybody in the whole game. Put it this way, Mike Lynn from Aftermath - the dude who is runnin’ Dr. Dre’s label. Dr. Dre sent Mike Lynn to New York to meet me. They was coming to find out -- me and Eminem were the two people he was thinking about signing. And they went from month to month thinking about who they was going to sign and at the end he picked Eminem. So that’s another crazy story. A lot of close calls, huh.

Genovese: A lot of close calls. But, you know, it’s fine. It did work out, and then things didn’t work out. You could go through a lot of these dudes from Jay-Z to Biggie to Nelly to Ma$e, and they all got a story like this. It’s just they’re story ended in a good way, and you know, I think mine will too. You gotta keep pushin' in this game. That’s all it is. Sometimes you talk about some violence and talk about the mob thing in your lyrics. Is there any way that could be seen as kind of breaking a code of silence?

Genovese: Yeah, you know what it is -- I don’t really get into -- I like say some s**t, but it’s nothing that’s not been said in the movies. I am not gonna talk about personal things in my life or personal things in my friend’s life. I like just talk about everyday things that I see. If Game is rapping about Bloods and Crips, it’s the same way. I don’t think Game is breaking any rules or Snoop is breaking any rules when they’re talking, because it’s just something they seen. Tell me a little bit about First Cousins…

Genovese: Right now, we’re doing it independently. We got some decent paper behind us, and we’re going to put this album out in spring -- summer the latest. It’s gonna be called This Ain’t Friends … It’s Family and what we’re doing is -- with me and him it’s a crazy situation because my father and his father used to run around when they was kids. We’re about a week apart. Maybe about -- this was like ’96 -- I met up with him again and he was like, “Yo, you know me and you when we were kids we used to be together, like my father and your father were like best friends.” I went back and spoke to my mother and she was like, ‘That was your father’s best friend.’ So, come to find out it’s like our fathers ran around together, and then we met up years later, and we both into music. So basically, we’re runnin’ with that. We got a song with Big Kuntry from P$C, “Swinging on Poles.” We also got a song with Young G.A.G.E. who just signed to Aftermath. He’s coming up. He’s definitely next. He’s from Philly. We just really goin’ with this s**t hard right now.

Gustapo: As far as the music goes, we have our own recording studio. We have a stable of about five to six different producers that are loyal to us and work directly with any project that we’re putting together. What can people expect from this CD?

Gustapo: We just released an EP which is like a precursor to the upcoming album. We made sure with that to try and represent versatility as far as like a radio song, you know a clean-cut radio song, and you could probably bounce off from straight Hip-Hop music to Pop music, and then we got grimy type of stuff. And then we have strip club type stuff. So, with that we’re showing the versatility of the group. … We’ll probably be on the political side of things, you know.

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