Progress is always made one step at a time; a lesson the members of Strong Arm Steady are more than familiar with. After grinding for years in the streets of Californias underground circuit independently, the collective group of Krondon, Mitchy Slick and Phil Da Agony are ready to prove to world what many West Coast enthusiasts already know. With their individual styles representing hoods from San Diego to L.A., the crew is the epitome of Calis unique mesh of gang culture, hard rhymes and kush-blowing lifestyle. But when a wrench was thrown into their spokes with the departure of their fourth and best-known member Xzibit, the future of Strong Arm Steady was in question. Even after taking two steps back, their latest single One Step is catching fire across the country, and their first label effort, Deep Hearted, released in late August. With a gang of like-minded artists showing up for support on the studio album, and stage performances alongside Talib Kweli on this summers Rock the Bells tour, its clear that Strong Arm is truly a movement to be reckoned with. In other words, get with the team, or get behind them.AllHipHop.com: Its almost hard to believe Strong Arm doesnt have an album out with so many tracks already recorded and released. How does it feel to have an official release coming after so many mixtapes?Phil Da Agony: It always feels good to have something coming to stores. Weve been on projects before that have been officially released outside of the mixtape thing. But we like doing the mixtape thing, it keeps us on our toes and its been a habit of ours in Strong Arm Steady ever since 2003-2004. AllHipHop.com: So is Deep Hearted the official album, because I thought you had the Arms and Hammers project coming later in the year?Phil Da Agony: Deep Hearted is like our street album, and Arms and Hammers is our album coming through Blacksmith/Warner Brothers.AllHipHop.com: Whats the chemistry like between you guys when youre in the studio, such as tonight? Is there a certain formula you guys have developed after a few years of rocking together?Phil Da Agony: Man, at this point its a lot of beats. Theres a lot of s**t loaded in the computer, a lot of songs weve made collectively that were just consistently knockin out until we get ready to turn in the Arms and Hammers album.Mitchy Slick: And every now and then, if one of us be on our solo s**t and we come up with something hot that we think would be good for the group, we bring it to the table. Right now, we so fluent with this s**t, homie, its like we the [Harlem] Globetrotters. It aint even no one way to do it, we pros at this s**t. We might all sit down and come up with some fresh s**t. Were real comfortable with it.AllHipHop.com: Nowadays, it seems everybody with Fruity Loops or Pro Tools has their own mixtape in stores or on Myspace. Being a gang thats been heavy into the mixtape scene the last few years, is it becoming more difficult to get your mix to the top of the stack?Krondon: In anything, the good s**t gon rise to the top. So its become more than a n***a putting some songs together, rapping over a n***as beats or whatever. Everybody did that, thats a formula that definitely works. But it comes along with doing other things outside of that s**t. We did it at a time when there really wasnt nobody doing it [on the West Coast]. So we was a real catalyst for the West Coast, as individual artists and collectively, and then cultivated record deals. All the things we have came from having the mixtapes that we saturated years prior. But we still do the mixtape thing cause you never want to let go of what got you to where you are. But at the same time, you want to keep going on further and further. So Id never knock a cat starting out like that. But you cant stop there, and you cant think like Alright, Ive got a mixtape out and I sold 1,000 or 1,500 or even 3,000, Ive made my mark in the game. AllHipHop.com: So, what were the problems behind Xzibits Open Bar that had you move over to Kwelis Blacksmith Records?Krondon: Wasnt no problems, Open Bar [Records] didnt really have no situation for us to put no music out. And [Talib] Kweli being a friend of ours over the years, especially [with] Phil Da Agony, he saw the benefits in doing a Strong Arm record. He always was a part of what we doing personally and creatively, but he had a business and he brought the opportunity to us, and we thought it was a good look. So there wasnt a problem [with Open Bar], there just wasnt a place for it.Phil Da Agony: We had a lot of opportunities to do deals, Xzibit included. At the time, the deal wasnt feasible for X, so we just went about our business, he went about his, and its all good. Aint no love lost.AllHipHop.com: I know there wasnt any love lost between you guys. But at the time, when it was announced that Xzibit wasnt an official member, did you guys feel some negative energy floating around from all the media outlets?Krondon: Yeah, of course. But thats a quality of the game right now. Cats look for it like the news or some s**t. N***as look for s**t to cling on to, to create some sort of negative vibe and put that out there to hopefully spark some other s**t. And to be honest, anytime cats start a certain way and it doesnt pan out that way, people are gonna feel a certain negative way. I know some of our fans probably felt the same way or whatever, but it aint nothing.Phil Da Agony: Theres a lot of cats with us that dont necessarily get to be on the front lines, thats been down with us since day one. Like Chase Infinite, or Planet Asia or what have you. And those dudes aint ever been in the forefront of Strong Arm Steady, but definitely put just as much work in as X or anybody else. So we all just step forward and do it collectively. But Strong Arm Steady been around since before X. We welcomed him into that as our brother and as part of the group, but we still moving on after that. We been around before that, and we gonna still be here after.Krondon: And forever. And ever, and ever and ever.AllHipHop.com: So, whats the official story of the three of you getting together?Krondon: Theres a common thread between all of us, a common friend. Hes from Mitchy Slicks neighborhood in San Diego. And behind the scenes he kind of put us all together. When hed come to L.A., hed stay with me and Phil, hed travel with X. And I was working closely with X, which he had a lot to do with. He introduced me personally to Mitchy Slick, and X and a lot of cats. And he wanted to make sure cats from his way got on, and wasnt no n***a rappin' and making noise in San Diego, there wasnt no Mitchy Slick at the time, ya dig? So when we started putting this whole collective together lyrically, we came as individuals that made up Strong Arm Steady as a new invention, a re-invention.Phil Da Agony: All these things happened after 2000, but youre talking bout cats thats been doing this for a long time, man, on many different levels and avenues. So this is something in our careers that we all decided to take time out and venture out to do this and make it successful. We all knew each other as friends first, and it was who we kicked it with on the regular, so this is what we do, we make music. But we do music with a lot of cats, from the Will.I.Ams to the Talib Kwelis to the Chamillionaires to the Juveniles to the Messy Marvs to wherever we go. We make music with everybody, and thats what Strong Arm Steady is. If you look back at the mixtapes, weve got 50 Cent saying Strong Arm Steady, Get ya bars up mf**kas, so its a movement and thats what its about. AllHipHop.com: Now, Strong Arm Steady has been representing Western unity the past few years, as well as others affiliated besides just the core members. Do you guys feel the tense situation on your coast has changed since you came out?Mitchy Slick: Hell yeah. If you knew the lines that we break or the people that we f**k with, there aint even a majority of one type of guy we f**k with. We got a lot of people from everywhere. We dealin' with people thats really talented and we aint trippin'. Like Jay Rock, and G Malone, me and the homies got songs. And the album I got out with Messy Marv [Messy Slick], throughout it we got cats from all around the Bay area, and theres no record out like that right now. Krondon: Thats why we named the album Deep Hearted, because of our affiliations and because people are so aligned with Strong Arm Steady from every side of the map, to North, South, East, West. Weve got Juvenile, Chamillionaire, Ras Kass, Xzibit, Paul Wall, Planet Asia. We not on TV everyday and on the radio across the country with 15,000 spins like some of these n***as with they cookie cutter, fake-ass records. But at the same time we get respect from n***as thats really done it and made they mark in the game and respect the position we in. We got so much s**t coming out right now Kris, its really gon be undeniable in a minute.AllHipHop.com: Was that your aspiration with the new single One Step? The unity vibe of getting everybody to come together on the same page?Phil: Actually, Kron wrote that hook, but how I take it is like universal, its for everybody. Definitely on the West, and East or wherever you at. For me its more personal I guess, like take one step closer to where youre trying to be period. But I dont know if he wrote it like that.Krondon: Really, its like take a step closer to positivity. I used God in the hook cause of course hes the highest level of positivity you could reach for anything no matter what you call him or who you think he is. But where we come from, its the home and birthplace of the gang mentality, and at some point our music, no matter how violent or ignorant or aggressive it might be, Strong Arm represents a culmination of gang mentality thats trying to go towards a positive understanding at the end of the day. Really just get money, raise babies, live life and buy houses and do things that grown men are supposed to do besides kill each other, go to prison and be dumbasses. But our environment breeds that mentality, so for so long West Coast music has perpetuated a certain mentality but never gave you another side of it. So with Strong Arm Steady, we want to give you both sides of it, instead of saying Oh yeah, its all good, its all good, f**k yourself off.