When an artist sees his face on a fictious missing milk carton, it can elicit either disdain or motivation for that MC. For Rampage, it was a sign that the game was missing him, prompting his return with Have You Seen? on his own Deep Freeze Records this summer. The milk hasn't spoiled yet.
While a lot has changed in Hip-Hop since his 1994 scene-stealing cameo on Craig Macks Flava In Ya Ear (Remix), Rampage still remains on his New York ish, fond of the era when he rhymed alongside groundbreaking artists like Biggie and his cousin, Busta Rhymes.
Armed with plenty of industry lessons, Rampage aspires to be a strong CEO as well as an artist in 2006. While still representing the Flipmode Squad, Rampage sets the record straight on why he stayed away from the limelight and why its important for New York MCs to stay in their element to regain the throne.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of people only know you from your cameo on the 1994 classic Flava in Ya Ear (Remix) and as Bustas cousin. Let the people know who Rampage is.
Rampage: Well, Im Rampage, official lieutant of the Flipmode Squad. I was signed to Rowdy Records in 92, where I released my first single, Beware of the Rampsack. I left Rowdy/Arista in 94 when Craig Mack called me. At the time, he let me know he was a fan and asked me to be on the remix of Flava in Ya Ear. When I jumped on Flava in Ya Ear in 94, it changed my life. That whole 94 summer, I used to open up for Biggie whenever he went on the road. I just feel like Im one of the last Mohicans as far as that street, authentic Hip-Hop s**t. Fast-forward to 1996: I was signed to Elektra Records for about seven years. Once that situation went under, I just chilled, moved to Philly, got into real estate and just took a break from the industry. In Philly, I hooked up with a producer named Felony Music while promoting parties in Philly through my own production company, which is how I started Deep Freeze Entertainment and the rest is history. But Flipmode is still the squad and we are still together! We all talk everyday and Im with them 100%.
AllHipHop.com: Does being affiliated with Busta hinder your career, as far as pressure from labels to sell?
Rampage: Hell no! My lights is still on! [laughs] Busta inspires me and taught me everything I know about this game. What he does can never hinder me; what he does inspires me.
AllHipHop.com: Why a solo album now, especially after a long absence?
Rampage: Because Ive been away for so long and plus I always been a solo artist. I just got caught up in a lot of label stuff, which prolonged me from putting out a project. Plus, DJ Scratch; he motivated me as well. He put that vibe in me to do me and to get back to the music. Plus working with Felony Music, I just felt like it was time to get back in the studio. So everybody who loved me has just been blessing me with records. Scratch, The Neptunes, this dude from Israel named Prayon whos crazy, just mad people who wanted me to return to the game.
AllHipHop.com: Describe your production and your rhyme style
Rampage: A lot of fans listen to what they can dance to; thats what Im about. I make records that you can feel but I make records thats universal that I can be big on, thats gonna keep me rotating on the radio and in the club. When I hear a beat, I just want to get what Im saying across. But I pick a lot of beats based on how I feel. My rhyme style is hard, direct, and just global.
AllHipHop.com: New York is in a slump but a lot of people are looking at Busta, based on Hot 97s Summer Jam and his string of singles, to bring it back to the East. Do you think that means its Flipmodes year?
Rampage: Yes. Him and Scratch is on the grind right now. I think that a lot of these MCs dont pick good beats, a lot of them feel like theyd rather be a CEO than make music. I think a lot of these dudes need to stop settling for office jobs and get back to the music. In the South, they CEOs but they make good music. Now you got everybody getting back to the music. New York. We always been that official Hip-Hop s**t, but lately, everybody would rather go to a party or chill in Miami, rather than get back to the music. Plus, without the producer, an MC cant stay fresh. A lot of these dudes ears aint fresh. Take Grandmaster Caz; his flow is ridiculous! You let him loose with some of these new producers and hes back. You just have to stay focused on the music. A lot of these dudes got production deals and pieces on they neck but they not getting back to the music. So Bus, doing what hes doing, is official. We make music, thats what we about.
AllHipHop.com: You complained about other rappers becoming CEOs but youre a CEO---
Rampage: --- Im a CEO but Im about the music. A lot of CEOs aint about the music.
AllHipHop.com: What that always the plan since you got in the rap game?
Rampage: It became the plan when I saw what Elektra was doing to us. They would make money off of us and charge it to our next record. I dont like s**t like that. With a major, if you dont sell a million or two million, youre considered a flop nowadays. But independently, you sell 50,000 units, you make $800,000. Two days, I moved 7,000 CDs with no video. So Im in the right business. [laughs] Plus, I do my own promo tour out of my pocket. I like this independent thing, Im on the grind.
AllHipHop.com: What other projects do you have outside of Hip-Hop?
Rampage: I have real estate, a barber shop and a beauty salon both in North Philly. And Im working on a screenplay called No Love in the Room.
AllHipHop.com: Who would you like to work with?
Rampage: Everybody. Anybody who wants to work with me. [Smiles] Kevin Federlines brother came to my concert out in LA and gave me Kevs number. His brother was like, Kevs a big fan of yours. He said that they were big fans, so thats a good look.
AllHipHop.com: They didnt have the baby with them, did they?
Rampage: [Laughs] Nah.
AllHipHop.com: It might lead to a song with Britney.
Rampage: Whatever works. I never said I didnt keep the number. [smiles]