Juggaknots: Movin' the Chains

How cool would it be to say your junior high school teacher belonged to a celebrated Hip-Hop group? Wouldn’t that be awesome if your teacher could bust rhymes during recess, make a knuckle beat on the lunchroom table, or man the turntables at the high school dance? There exists three such teachers and together, they comprise the underground mammoth trio the Juggaknots. However, Breezly Brewin, Buddy Slim, and Queen Herawin live the classic marvel comic existence, working as dedicated New York City public school teachers during the day, and roaming the city as underground Hip-Hop heroes during the night.

Even though the name “Juggaknots” sounds beastly, the group’s reign over the past fifteen years or so has been unjustly underscored. They are responsible for a lot of Hip-Hop’s quiet milestones, from their classic Clear Blue Skies, to their memorable single “The City Needs Help” on the Jason’s Lyric Soundtrack, to Breezly Brewin’s remarkable flow in the audio epic Prince Paul’s Prince Among Thieves.

The Juggaknots with the addition of their younger sister Queen Herawin, talk about their newest studio album, Use Your Confusion, and play a few fun games with AllHipHop in the process.

AllHipHop.com: How do the students respond to you being MCs? Do you ever put on performances for them?

Breeze: They don’t know me.

Herawin: If they knew, we would get nothing done related to what we have to do.

AllHipHop.com: Is Hip-Hop a subject that comes up often? Do you have a feel for what the students like to hear?

Herawin: Yeah, most definitely. It’s a part of their culture, it’s a part of our culture, so it becomes a playing field or medium, for us to all relate. Just cause they don’t know we’re involved in music and have a group doesn’t mean that we don’t listen to music, and have knowledge on stuff. I can’t look surprised when they recite some lyrics and I know who it is.

AllHipHop.com: So I just wanted y’all to just like humble yourselves and spit a line of the very first rhyme y’all ever made?

Herawin: “First up to bat, Baby Joy can jump to that.../not the first or the second but the third of the crew…something, something.” I can’t remember all the words. But that was like one of the first joints I recorded. It wasn’t even Herawin. It was Baby Joy. My real name means Joy, so that was like a nickname. My brother got me a bookbag with that on it. I must have been like 12 years old.

Breeze: I can’t put one out there, but I had this joint where I was videotaped and I found the videotape. I was rhyming and I was serious about it, and I remember seeing that joint and I took a sigh because I was 12 at the time. It goes, “Thinking about the money we be making, I’m on top.../ When I perform world series of the mic/ Then I bless you...” Umm. It’s simple.

AllHipHop.com: Along the lines of foundation and beginning to MC, who are the people you looked up to, like “I wanna rhyme like that”?

Breeze: For me, probably Special Ed. When he came out, I thought homeboy was like mad well rounded. He had this joint like, “Fire MC”. He had regular joints like “I Got it Made”, then he had straight grimy battle joints like “I’m Taxin ‘Em”. When he came out, I was probably like 14, so I was like, “I’m a little younger than him, maybe I’d get at him but…”

Herawin: Women [were] who influenced me even though it was both women and men, of course. Definitely, MC Lyte. Latifah. I always used to like Boss too, she only came out with one album, but Slim bought me the single, “Fever”. That was the joint, I still play that.

AllHipHop.com: What was the meanest thing somebody said to you to try to discourage your dreams of being MCs and making music? How did you respond to it?

Slim: First of all, for the movie Jason’s Lyric, I was given the opportunity to try to score the album. Doug McHenry was a big dog in the business and passed away a few years ago. Basically, he was just like, “Do your thing,” and I pretty much told him that I didn’t have the equipment or really the resources, for I think what the guys were looking for. He gave some films for the movie, and he was like, “Just put some beats together on tape and we’ll get back with you in a few weeks, then we’ll have a meeting, and we’ll see what’s up.” So, [I] waited a few weeks. I really put a lot of work, really locked myself into the room. I didn’t really see the movie ‘cause I had it when it was like in its early stages, when there was no music behind the scenes and had the meeting with homeboy, and it wasn’t really Doug McHenry, but when we finally sat down to have the meeting basically, they just tore me apart in the meeting. They was like, “This is the worst s**t I’ve ever heard.” Someone else ended up doing the score. So, it was like, the beat that I did on the album with myself, Brewin, and Buddy Guy. I remixed “The City Needs Help”, it still plays in the movie to this day. It’s kinda like even though you tried to scheme on me, my beat still plays.

AllHipHop.com: Pretend you were a door-to-door salesman, what would you say to get someone to buy Use Your Confusion?

Slim: When I listen to the album and I really try to be as objective as possible, I want people to really covet it and keep it in their hearts and minds, like those albums that kinda consume me - Brand Nubian albums, early Ice Cube’s albums. Like albums that were really dope, that were didn’t get that kind of initial fanfare and so much popular appeal, but [they] still in the lives and the hearts and the families of people, people can identify and love these albums without it having to be a top seller. Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, and stuff like that [is] one of the best albums, ever.

Breeze: For me, door-to-door, I think what people respond when it’s like look, you get this because you don’t know when it’s will happen again and we kinda got a track record for that. “Yo, this the last Juggaknots album ever, we retiring, like Jay-Z, I’m retiring and everybody gets excited.”

AllHipHop.com: If y’all had an unexpected check for a $1000 what’s the first thing y’all would do with it?

Slim: Equipment. Equipment. Equipment. If I had money right now, equipment’s always like the safe thing. I’m a nerd like, “Oh wow, listen to the megahertz on that one.” It’s like a new toy. It’s a gift that gives back. So, you always, kinda in the back of your mind, justify getting it. If I can’t buy my kids clothes this week, it’s okay because when I raise them later, I could make some ill beats with this s**t.

Herawin: I would try to get my credit scores up. [Laughs]

AllHipHop.com: I wanna play this interesting game called “Marry, Dump, F**k.” For Herawin, Nas, Mos Def, and Andre 3000. Which one would you marry, which one would you dump, or which one would you keep on the side?

Herawin: Yeah, I like this game. I love Mos. That’s my man. He’s a cool cat. I might have to dump him only because he might dump me for a new wife. I know he likes women. No disrespect, whatever works. If it gets on that level. I don’t know how stable that might be as a home for me. Let’s see. I got Nas and 3000 left. I think Andre I’d probably keep him on the side ‘cause he seems like a straight freak. That’s great, but if you’re that way then I don’t know that stable that is either cause you know, freaks, they like to go out and do things.

Slim: You breaking up a happy home, is that what you telling me?

Herawin: I’m not trying to break up a happy home. Kelis is dope. I love her, but this is hypothetical. I ain’t trying to move on nobody’s man. Definitely not her's. I might have to say, I mean, that’s already her man. You know, so, hypothetical. I would have to go with Nas. Me and Nas go way back. In the days of the “[New York] State of Mind”, he’s been consistent. I’ve always been a fan of Nas. His first album. I mean, crack, it’s one of my favorite albums and I definitely grew up listening to it and he’s a real poetic cat. I’m not comparing myself to him, but I definitely like to think that with my own stuff, one of my favorite aspects is flow. I can get a little sick with it. I love the height on him. Ain’t Nas tall? I need a man with some height. I don’t even know. Once we get the height stats, I may have to reevaluate everything. But From character, I might have to go with that.

AllHipHop.com: Aight, for Slim and Breeze, “Marry, Dump, F**k”: Lauryn Hill, Foxy Brown, Jean Grae?

Breeze: I love Lauryn to death, love her, but she got a lot baggage. She’s like the type if I just wanna hang out with. Me and her, we wouldn’t get it on. I’d probably be like, it’s just a lot of things going on. My kids and your kids. This is too much. Foxy Brown’s father’s from Trinidad. If I brought that home he’d probably pat me on the shoulder. So, I’d definitely f**k her. That sound bad? Out of the three of them, Jean Grae, I did a song with her before, cool as hell. You know, she’s from my era. We got a lot in common. If I’mma marry any of them, it’s gonna be Jean.

Slim: I guess for Foxy, it would just be a jump off ‘cause she’s just a b***h I wanna f**k. I guess because Breeze is marrying Jean, so I would kick her to the side. I would say Lauryn is probably the chick I would marry because I just think in a lot of ways we relate. She’s a Gemini, I’m a Gemini. She kinda does a singing thing, I do a little singing thing every now and then. She definitely rocks on the rhyme, too. She kinda put all her energy into that whole Marley family and it’s definitely something with me. I mean, recently I just cut my locks but I had my hair going for like 13 years. I don’t know about her other sexual side but, she’s definitely well off [financially]. And just even musically, Lauryn produces a lot of her own music. She likes live instrumentation, a lot of the elements I like to use in my own production.

AllHipHop.com: What was the high point when making Use Your Confusion?

Breeze: As far as, the high point, it was a lot of work. We made a good album. I don’t think there’s a lot of variety to it. I mean, it’s aight. I like it, I ain’t gonna front. I been here for a minute now, and I’m proud of it. I feel hungry. I got feelings for it. That’s all I can ask for from an album. Feeling, at the same time variety of feeling and cats listening, of course.

Herawin: The high point, definitely the completion of the album. I mean, there was definitely points within it when it was get that right take or you get the pieces down the way you want it or whatever it is but on a whole, I think overall thing was just having it done. But really when you work on something for that length of time, then you know it’s done then you celebrate what you took to get to that point. So celebration, b***es. Very excited about that.