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What do you get when you take the greatest living rapper and the greatest hip hip producer. You get one hot album. Sign the petition and lets make it happen.

by rocafan on 7/12/2004 11:49:00 AM


Source: SOHH.com

MOP are victims of their own music. Based on their mosh pit rap anthems and riot-inducing lyrics, Billy Danze and Lil' Fame have developed a rep as one of hip-hop's most abrasive duos. The type to flip on you just as easily as they can churn out a 'hood classic. Blame their notorious stomping grounds, Brownsville. A section of Brooklyn, NY where gentrified pale faces in search of boho vibes and cheaper rents dare not venture. It's an understandable mistake. The geniuses behind stick up kid anthems like "Ante Up" and "How About Some Hardcore" couldn't be, dare we say, nice guys. Or could they?

"Everybody just looks at us as just being real ni99as. 'Yo, them real ni99as.' f#@$ all that! We talented ni99as!" barks Fame. "We love the music sh!t, man, and half the game can't do it like we do it. We been doing it for so long and they covering it with, 'Them real ni99as.' We real ni99as and we talented ni99as." Pausing for a moment, he adds, "But we'll still f#@$ you up."

Walking into the room where MOP is finishing their first Roc-A-Fella release, Ghetto Warfare, the space seems more like a well-kept apartment than a recording studio. The sometimes boisterous but always intensely eloquent Billy is lost in his own thoughts. Fame, or Slap as he's also known, is in the control room crafting a future masterpiece. Seated behind the studio's mixing board, he's strategically tapping the sample pads on his MPC2000, adding snares and sequencing yet another amped head nodder. Blaring from the monitors, it sounds like vintage MOP. Emotionally charged and explosive hip-hop at it's best. And quiet as kept, that sound is primarily due to Fame's often-overlooked production skills.

During the past decade, Slap's gone from producing skits on the group's debut, To the Death, to flipping a Foreigner sample for the now classic "Cold as Ice." More recently he looped the drums from Eric B & Rakim's "Microphone Fiend" for their Jay-Z assisted street sweeper, "Put it in the Air." "Fame has got to be one of the most talented ni99as in the f#@$in' world [when it comes to beats,"] says Billy, who recently brought his own production skills to the fore, scoring "Wanna Be G's" for the Bad Boys II Soundtrack. "I've actually been doing it for a minute but I wasn't serious about it like Fame, Premier and them ni99as. I just couldn't figure out all them f#@$in' buttons."

Beat making was far less stressful for Fame. He actually found it to be therapeutic. "I got bad nerves," he reveals, after tweaking his current work in progress. "I need the music, man, to really keep me balanced."

Fame need not worry about his nerves anytime soon as he handles a majority of Ghetto Warfare's production work, only allowing a few select beatsmiths to contribute. It's not a matter of eschewing outside participation; MOP just knows what they want musically. And despite being solicited for his growing prowess at creating tracks, Fame isn't loaning out his production talents to outsiders anytime soon.

"I ain't chasing that, man. We the priority first," asserts Fame, pointing to himself and Billy. "I ain't trying to run as no f#@$in' producer ass ni99a and then..." His words trail off for a moment as his eyes fall on a picture of super producer Timbaland across the glossy cover of a magazine. He continues, "Nah, man, that sh!t's wack. You do a beat for these ni99as and the sh!t is crazy. [But] your own sh!t is wack. I ain't trying to be no Erick Sermon ass ni99a." He, Billy and the rest of the studio's occupants crack up. After the laughter tempers, Fame explains, "You gotta establish yourself. That's my whole priority."

MOP is an institution. In a genre where most artists get only one, maybe two albums tops to blow up, Billy and Fame have managed to stick around for over 10 years teetering just below mainstream notoriety. Despite their loyal fan base, none of the group's previous four albums (not counting their 1998 EP Handle UR Business) have come close to cracking the certified gold barrier that's encased their career. The closest they came was the popularity of Warriorz' frat boy fav "Ante Up," but even MTV airtime couldn't take them from mixtape props to national prominence.

So signing to Roc-A-Fella Records, the epitome of haughty, hyper-commercial hip-hop, looks like a strategic move on MOP's part. However, Billy and Fame's attitude towards their new recording home isn't overly optimistic, but guarded. "With Roc-A-Fella, we don't know right now," says Billy, regarding his third label since MOP's last album. "We know what they were able to do for Bleek and Beanie and Jay and whatever else they got rolling now. We haven't put an album out there yet so we ain't sure, we just waiting to see. But it's still on us, we still got to do our sh!t because Roc-A-Fella won't get me to the stage. ni99as wanna see me, not because I'm on Roc-A-Fella but because I busted my ass to get this far in the game."

"What I like about the whole Roc-A-Fella sh!t, I like their work effort," continues Billy, measuring each word carefully. "Cam'Ron, his work ethic is f#@$in' ridiculous. Where we fit in at, we do classic, hard hip-hop. Beanie and State Property, they stay on top of sh!t, not that they're following trends, but whatever's happening right now [in music,] they a part of it. We don't want nobody to get the thought that the type of music that come from ni99as from Brownsville is to be forgotten about."

Don't mistake Billy's comments as a repressed desire to shine, 'cause the usual excitement and anticipation surrounding an impending new release is something he and Fame refuse to get caught up in. "We went from Select Records, to Relativity, to Loud, to Columbia. Ya know how many times I heard that sh!t?!" offers an ever skeptical Fame. "'Yo! We gonna do it this time!' I heard that sh!t when we got on Select Records. f#@$ all that! I got a son and I got a wife and as long as I can take care of them I'm good."

"ni99as be like, 'If the money ain't right this time, f#@$ it I ain't doing it no more,'" says Billy, when asked about their modest record sales. "But the truth is you come out better doing this than hanging out in the middle of the street where a ni99a can knock a hole in you. We make decent money. We ain't all out the water, but we ain't in the mud."

Aside from keeping them out of the streets and providing for their families, one of the Mash Out Posse's driving forces is simply creating music that they themselves can enjoy and listen to. "If somebody else made music the way that we made music, and I was able to get it like I needed it, or hear it like I wanted it; then I could step back a lil' bit," says Billy. "But as of right now, ain't nobody doing it, so somebody gotta make music for me."

Fame admits that for him at least, the approach to making their musical massacres has changed slightly. "I used to bust my brains to write rhymes. When I was 14, 15-years-old, I'd sit there and write, thinking of the illest lines and all that bullsh!t," he begins. "I mean, we gotta show ni99as that we will wear their ass out on some rhyme sh!t. 'Cause there's dudes out there like Eminem now that will spit your head off. But I don't want to be too lost in that sh!t. I ain't one of them knapsack rappers."

"I wish we could just make records without doing videos and all that bullsh!t. I wish it was just raw raps," continues Fame, clapping his hands together for emphasis. "We'd kill it. But as far as the image, fashion and all that...that's where they got us beat at. I'm rolling with a Foot Locker T-shirt and a pair of Timbs, nahmean?"

It's that no frills image that's endeared them to many fans. But at the same time, it's hindered them in reaching a broader audience. But gaudy jewelry and expensive cars have never been part of the MOP modus operandi. Trends come and go, taking many rappers with them but MOP has remained. "The Versace sh!t is gone," states Billy, emphatically. "[Notorious] B.I.G. blew it up, now it's gone. The Iceberg sh!t is gone. There was a certain kind of car that ni99as had to have, that's gone. All that sh!t will leave, but the streets will never die."

While their dedication to the widespread street corner constituency is paramount, some wonder if by targeting such a specific niche they're alienating other potential listeners. "The Roc-A-Fella audience is slightly different from the traditional MOP audience," says Billy. "We aim to take care of our people first of course, then push it over to that audience. Ain't nothing wrong with expanding."

He adds, "We got all the bases covered as far as the energy, the lyrics, the delivery, whatever. It's not even up to us no more. We ain't doing it for a sale, we doing it for a generation, for a population."

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