Hip-Hop hurts. I’m not talking about swinging bows and
throwing fists. Hip-Hop, the industry, can cut deep, and some scars don’t
heal. While most fifteen year olds might not know who Kwame was, they undoubtedly
know the opening bars to Biggie’s “Unbelievable” that affirmed
Kwame’s decline, and nearly blackballed him from ever being taken seriously
But while Hip-Hop can certainly hurt, it’s rare to see
somebody endure it and come back swinging.
Kwame isn’t angry, bitter, or outdated. Truth be told,
more people are following his work now than ever. No, not by way of his classic,
(yeah-classic!) Day in the Life, but because Kwame is the producer,
along with Eminem, behind Lloyd Banks’ chart-topper, “Fire”.
This isn’t the first time either. Kwame’s been creeping on a comeback,
supplying heaters for LL Cool J, Cam’ron, Mary J. Blige, and others. You
won’t even believe what he’s got cooking next.
Ice Cube and LL Cool J have always been at the top. Maybe it’s
talent, maybe it’s the labels, and maybe it’s everything. But few
successful Hip-Hoppers from fifteen years ago are still involved in the Top
40, or Platinum status discussions. Ten years ago, Miss Cleo couldn’t
have predicted that Kwame would be at the top today, but as Kwame told AllHipHop:
“You’re gonna have to accept me, sometime.” Read what he has
to say, ‘cuz like AllHipHop, Kwame doesn’t know what it means to
AllHipHop.com: Congratulations on “Fire”. That surprised
a lot of people, and will surprise even more who don’t know it yet. Tell
us how that came about.
Kwame: It was weird. I [knew] people were looking for stuff
for they albums. I tailor-make CD’s of tracks I think would be good for
[the artist]. So I sent some out to Sha Money XL. It’s like an actor.
You go in, you do your audition, and keep it movin’ – if they call
you back, they call you back, if they don’t, they don’t. So months
later, he gave me a call and said, ‘I like this particular track. I feel
strongly that this is Lloyd Banks’ first single.’ I hear this all
the time, so it’s, ‘Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Okay. Keep it moving.’
I get another call: ‘Eminem is crazy about the track, he wants to get
involved. He’s got some ideas to put to it.’ I’m a team player,
so I’m like, ‘Yeah! I always wanted to work with Em also.’
He put some horn embellishments on the track or whatever and they sent it to
me, and I approved it. Next thing I know, the record is everywhere in the country,
AllHipHop.com: You were able to be in the recording sessions
with Banks on this?
Kwame: Yeah, I was. Then they transferred some stuff to Detroit
for the mix. I wasn’t able to be [in Detroit].
AllHipHop.com: So even though you said ‘Beat Tape’,
you’re a true producer?
Kwame: Let me tell you, I’m a producer! I’m not
a beat-maker. A lot of people get that twisted. They send in beats or they Pro-Tools
or whateva, and they call it a day. I don’t go for that, personally. I’ve
been around too long to be treated that way. I force my issue on it. Of course
you wanna do it for the money, but at the same time, I do it for the love and
do it for the credit. Because that’s pretty much all you have in this
game is the credit and your name in situations to get you more work.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think there’s a future with you
and the G-Unit camp?
Kwame: Things are in the works right now. I’m not gonna
be the G-Unit producer or anything. We’re finalizing some stuff with 50
for his new album and also with Em, but until things are recorded and done and
actually making the album, I can’t put my stamp on it.
AllHipHop.com: I also know you’re working with Big Daddy
Kane and Black Sheep - so you’re true to where you came from, as well.
Kwame: More than just Kane and Black Sheep. As far as ‘old
school’: Kool G Rap, Kane, Black Sheep, and possibly Heavy D’s album
on Bad Boy. Also, Dana Dane. A lot of people seem to forget the era that they
come from or what they were in to, and they just go into keeping everything
new. For me, I consider it a give back, because these are the people I looked
up to before I came out. So with Kane, we’re just developing records.
There’s no deal on the table. We’re just doing songs and looking
for the best situation after that. Same thing with Black Sheep. These are people
that I came up with, went on tour with, and developed friendships. So doing
songs for them, isn’t a big deal. With older artists - unfortunately,
there’s a stigma attached to the older artists. Their only recourse is
to do independent records, because I can do a hit single on a Big Daddy Kane
record, but Universal isn’t gonna sign it.
AllHipHop.com: Well, the radio won’t play it and neither
Kwame: Yeah, it’s my biggest goal in Hip-Hop is to break
down that barrier between old school and new school, and let it be based on
your talent, your merit, and how you perform [each] record. Because when the
Rolling Stones or the Isley Brothers put out a record, every radio station will
jump on it. Fans from sixteen to sixty will jump on it. Why can’t Big
Daddy Kane be that same way? I feel that’s my duty to break it down. Support
what supported you coming up. Rap is the only art form that’ll tear down
what created it.
AllHipHop.com: How hard was the transition for you from old
Kwame the MC to Kwame the producer?
Kwame: Very. The mindset that I had was never hating the industry.
What I learned a long time ago is that this is an industry of opinion. I can’t
reach into people’s brains and change their opinion. All I can do is let
my work show. If you knock at the door long enough, somebody’s gonna answer
the door. I just put myself around situations that could advance me and be a
team player. That worked for me. That took a long time - it took damn near ten
AllHipHop.com: What was the lowest point, the bottom?
Kwame: The lowest point was [in 1993], I left Atlantic Records.
I put out Nasty. The album was recorded in ’90-’91. They
didn’t put it out until ’92. By the time they put it out, people
like Tribe were really hittin’ and rap got a lil’ bit grittier -
so that danceable, happy stuff really wasn’t in style. They pretty much
sabotaged me when the album came out and it didn’t do well. So at that
point, I decided to leave Atlantic and I thought I could get into another contract
real quick, and I couldn’t.
By the time my [next] album [flopped], the Biggie situation had happened, it
totally turned the industry against me. Luckily, I wrote and produced all my
own stuff. So I was able to live off of residuals - but at the same time, no
new money was coming in. Luckily, I didn’t go out and get a job or anything.
I had to use my resources from my years in the industry and spread it. I would
do workshops for kids. In teaching them the do’s and the don’t’s,
I was teaching myself.
I remember one time, I was moving because my rent was a little too high and
my checks weren’t supporting [it]. I borrowed somebody’s car and
I’m driving to move, and I turn on to Hot 97, [and they were] just rippin’
me apart. You hear that, millions of people are listening to that. Then you
got a big record that’s dissin’ you, and then you really don’t
have anything goin’ on. That point told me, I’m at the crossroads.
Do I give up? Or do I fight it out? I vowed to fight it out.
AllHipHop.com: About the Biggie thing, on the Hip-Hop Babylon,
I thought that was man of you to admit what that did to you and your career.
I also give you credit, as un-Hip-Hop as it may sound, for never going back
Kwame: It is what it is. I think this is just how I raised.
Whatever happens to you, you allow. Anybody can say anything about you. If two
kids are fighting and one kid’s getting’ bullied, and he fights
back out of anger, he’s gonna lose ‘cuz he doesn’t know what
he’s doing. He just throwing punches and spazzing out. If you doing something
in Hip-Hop, you’re bound to get dissed. What’s the point of holding
on to it? ‘Cuz at one point, I did hold on, and held a grudge. That’s
not gonna help. Keep it moving.
AllHipHop.com: I’ve always been curious, especially since
you’re doing so much for the legends, has Premier ever apologized for
his role in that record?
Kwame: No, never. But Premier’s very cool. I don’t
think that has anything to do with him. I had discussions with Biggie about
the record, with Puff about the record. At the time of Biggie’s death,
everything was squashed between everybody. In the beginning, it wasn’t.
Puff and Biggie approached me personally. They pretty much apologized. It didn’t
do anything to help me. Puff didn’t make a producer on any records…
AllHipHop.com: Maybe this Heavy D record will be redemption.
Kwame: I’m doing a few projects with Bad Boy. I’m
doing stuff with Babs from Da Band.
AllHipHop.com: You were partners with Amen-Ra, who was a big
part of Bad Boy.
Kwame: Yeah, well, Amen-Ra, I grew up with him. He was the DJ
at my eighth grade prom - him and Herbie Luv. I don’t look for any redemption.
My success is my redemption.
AllHipHop.com: Going out on a comical note, so many trends in
Hip-Hop were crazy in the early 90’s. What style from right now do you
think is played out?
Kwame: I swear to God,
if I see another throwback jersey... You know what I hate? Anything iced
out. I shouldnt be one to talk, because I have jewelry myself. But
when anything involving rap becomes the poster child uniform for rap, it
deserves to be played out. When its hot, its exclusive.
Kwame’s production will be appearing on upcoming projects
from Freeway, Fabulous, Will Smith, and others. Stay tuned.