Just as I had promised, I'm here with a surprise treat for y'all. To celebrate the release of the Herb McGruff 1994 Demo EP, I caught up with Gruff to bless heads with an in-depth interview with the Harlem World master of ceremonies himself.
Pre-orders are still being taken for the limited 200 press EP, which will be shipped the week of April 28th.
For more info on ordering a copy, please CLICK HERE. Get one while they're still available.
HERB MCGRUFF INTERVIEW
Conducted April 10th, 2008 by 4XL and One Leg Up Records
4XL: How old were you when you first decided you wanted to rhyme and more importantly, who are some of the MC's that influenced you?
Well when I first started to rhyme I had to be about 14 or 15. Some of the first MC's that influenced me was Rakim, Kool G. Rap and the Big Daddy. Nah mean? That was like my era right there as a kid coming up.
4XL: What about locally, was there anyone from around your way that had influence on you?
Oh, Big L! You already know!
4XL: Oh no doubt, that's without question. I meant maybe someone unknown from around your way like a cat that nobody had ever heard about. You know, a lot of times dudes will have that one rapper from the neighborhood that was nice and everybody looked up to.
There was a bunch of dudes that was nice. It was this one guy called Nut, the Microphone Nut, he was crazy. Like lyrically, he was bananas. He was on the joint with Jay-Z on L's first album.
4XL: How come he never put anything else out? "Da Graveyard" was the only time I ever heard anything from him.
Because he's in the penitentiary, nah mean?
4XL: Oh damn!
Yeah you know! They ain't cuttin' no albums in there, know what I'm saying? (laughs) So that's what happened to his situation unfortunately.
4XL: Your first piece of worldwide notoriety came with Big L and Children of the Corn, how did that friendship begin?
Me and Big L, we grew up together. Me, him, my man Took, my man O. We were out on '39th and Lenox. So we grew up like way before the rap and all that, we was friends first. So from the jump it was already love.
4XL: The first time I recall hearing you was on the hook from "Danger Zone" and of course "8 Iz Enuff" is the first time I heard you rhyme. Did you ever appear on anything else before that or were you in any other groups before this came about?
Yeah I was in a group called Bronx Most Wanted. These kids called Jay Q and Tee U.B. They had this group. That's actually how I got hooked up with Godfather Don and my manager at the time, his name was Wayne and that's how y'all got that joint, them exclusives with Godfather Don. Those are from way back then. But that's how I got hooked up with the cats called Bronx Most Wanted, but I was like the only one from Harlem, you know? (laughs) So that shit didn't work out. So you know how it go!
4XL: Yeah, you know because a lot of times when I meet artists or have had them on my radio show, they always put me up on some record or song that came out back in the day from them. Or they were in some group before they got known that the general hip hop public isn't really aware of.
Word, I got a bunch of exclusives that nobody's ever heard. I got albums probably. Edit and put it all together and I got some albums for real, like uncut that nobody never heard. A bunch of them!
4XL: I'd definitely like to hear some of that stuff. Now, the other MC's on the "8 Iz Enuff" posse cut - Terra, Buddah Bless, Big Twan, Trooper J and Mike Boogie. What were those guys' association with Big L? Were they his people from around the way?
That was a mixture of people from around the way and like extended family. Like big Buddah Bless, he was from out the Bronx. Um.. Terra, he was from Staten Island. And um.. Trooper J, he was from Harlem, from the Hill, like Broadway. So we had knew him. And like, Mike Boogie he was also from the Hill. Big L and Trooper J used to go Julia Richmond High School and that's how they met. L just put that whole thing together.
4XL: What happened to some of those guys? I know we talked about Microphone Nut earlier, but did any of these guys continue to pursue rap music?
Basically everybody got families, jobs and kids. Everybody grown men by now. Mike Boogie, he was incarcerated too but he out now. He's working right now but he still doing his craft, he's still rhyming. He's got some stuff that's comin' out too. Nah mean? And Terra, I don't know what's up with that dude, I haven't heard from him in I don't know how long.
4XL: Yeah I was just curious about a lot of those other rappers, cause some of them you just never heard from again. Except for Killa Kam, everybody knows what Cam'ron went on to do.
Yeah, Cam, he was from around the way too. His uncle, Billy Giles, was a famous boxer trainer from Harlem. Like Cam originally from '40th but he had moved to the Eastside with his mother, around 133rd between 7th and Lenox. Everybody used to come to the '39th street, '40th street park just to chill. Like, that was the place to be and that's like basically how we all got hooked up and shit. Word up.
4XL: Were you present for a lot of the Big L sessions for "Lifestyles Uv Da Poor & Dangerous"?
Yeah, for damn near the whole album.
4XL: What was it like being around those sessions? That album is a classic.
Crazy! You know L was a lyricist first before anything. He's a perfectionist. He made sure every line, every punchline, everything was on time. Like, he was on it like that. Me, I'm more like a raunchy, raw type. Nah mean? But L was like lyrical with his joint. The sessions was crazy though. I used to run into Lord Finesse, Showbiz, AG, you know, the crew... Fat Joe in some sessions, it was crazy. It was an experience for me, you know? I started rhyming late, nah mean? I only just got started trying to pursue some solo shit. Like when L got that deal with Columbia, I was like "God damn, this for real! Like, it could really happen. Nah mean? Word up!" You know, cause we used to just rap for the love. We ain't think nothing of it like as if we was gonna go nowhere with it. But when L got that deal, he opened up a lot of doors, B. He gave a lot of people inspiration, especially comin' from where we comin' from. You know?
4XL: So how did the whole Children of the Corn thing come about? Who really was behind that move?
That started from Cam and L. They started C.O.C. That's when we was running with that whole C.O.C. thing. The original! So don't believe all that other stuff you see in the magazines. You hearin' it from Gruff Crime Doggie, nah mean? (laughs) For real.
4XL: There's always been some confusion about who exactly was officially part of C.O.C. Some people say Murder Mase was a part of it, some people say he's not.
Yeah Murder Mase was down with C.O.C. Mase was down. That's when he was Murder Mase. Cam was Killa Kam, nah mean? The days. The good days. The "American Dream" days. Before all the politics and all that got involved.
4XL: Speaking of "American Dream", Freeze Records put that single out and I had heard once that Bloodshed got the deal with Freeze for you guys over there. Is that true?
Nah, I think that was just some deal he had going on with Cam, nah mean? Or Duke Da God. We was all going through Cam and L with that situation.
4XL: Ah ok, so I must've been misinformed. A few years ago, Digga 'Six Figga' put out a Children of the Corn "Collector's Edition" mixtape that featured most of the C.O.C. recordings and freestyles. Did you have any involvement with this release?
Well musically I was in a lot of them sessions, even joints I didn't rhyme on. As far as the business behind C.O.C., I don't know if you're familiar with "T.D." Terrance Dean who was Dee and Wah's brother. You know Wah and them had the whole Ruff Ryders thing poppin' off. T.D. is Swizz's father. He had a lot to do with the C.O.C. thing that was poppin' off. He's managing Cassidy now.
4XL: When exactly did you get signed to Uptown and how did the situation with Heavy D come about? I remember seeing you appear on the 'New York Undercover' soundtrack as early as 1995.
I got signed at the end of '95, like September before the 4th quarter. What happened was, my manager Ink, he was from Mt. Vernon. He grew up with Hev. We used to be in this lil' gambling spot around the way on '39th and Lenox and he used to come from Mt. Vernon, he was gamblin' and all that, you know. So one day Ink was in there, L and all of us used to be in the gambling spot all the time, rhymin' or whatever and I had a demo. He knew Puff too so I told him to give it to Puff but whatever his situation was with him, I don't know, but he did say that he could probably give it to Hev. So I was just like "Whatever or whoever you give it to, it's all good." So he ended up passin' it to Hev but Hev said he didn't wanna hear no demo or nothing but he had a session and he wanted me to come down there. So I went down there and this was when Monifah was cuttin' her record. This is the funny shit cause this is how I got on the "I Miss You" remix. Nah mean? I came down there and I had went in the studio, Monifah was recording her album so I went in the other room. I went in the B room, nah mean, me and Hev, he was in there. So he's like "Let me hear something!" So I did it the old school way, like I was hittin' the table you know and started flowin'! (laughs) But he was like before I finished my joint, he was like "Yo! You ain't even gotta say no more. I'm gettin' you signed, B. Them joints was like unreal, B." Nah mean? It happened just like that too. And that same day I got on the Monifah remix with him.
4XL: Wow. So you went in there just for a meeting and you ended up getting on a track?
Yup. Word up. It happened so fast.
4XL: So basically that Easy Mo Bee record that you were on from the 'NY Undercover' album, you must've done that real quick after that too. Cause I remember getting that record in 1995. That was the first time I saw a solo record from you on wax.
Exactly. Damn, y'all go back boy! I'm glad you know the history. That's what's up though!
4XL: No doubt. From old to new...
Yeah that's what it is, man. Gotta know where you came from.
4XL: The Universal album "Destined To Be" came out in 1998 and it seemed like they wanted to market you with whole 'Harlem World' that Mase and Bad Boy had made so popular at the time. Did the direction the label wanted you to go in completely change over the years or did they only change when Mase and them started popping up all over the radio?
It was like a whole big thing. Because first I was on Uptown/MCA, then the whole merger thing with Universal happened and then Hev was the CEO but then he stepped down from CEO. So my project was in a whirlwind and it was like a lot of people hands in it that didn't really know what they was doing. The promotion wasn't right. Nah mean? But it is what it is, I ain't gonna sit here and whine. But people still come up to me to this day and be like "Yo, I still love your album!" Nah mean? They still ask me when I'm gonna put something else out.
4XL: Oh, it goes without saying that I think everybody has that respect for you as an MC. People know how you get down. I don't think it was a question whether people was feeling you or not...
Yeah, it was the machine that was supposed to be behind me. They needed some more oil, nah mean? (laughs) Everything wasn't working together at the same time.
4XL: So Hev wasn't involved in the project when it switched over to Universal?
No he wasn't.
4XL: Why didn't we hear more "Harlem Kids Get Biz" type of records from you? You know a lot of underground heads loved that record and wondered why more of that flavor wasn't on the rest of the album.
Word up, that's what my base was first and foremost, the underground. And you know, when you get up in there involved with the majors, it's a whole big thing that you gotta make radio friendly records and all that mess. You know, I was young at the time and I ain't really know the game like that, but I basically just had to do what I had to do, nah mean?
4XL: I remember that time period in the late 90's where if you were a rap artist and you weren't making those certain types of radio records, the labels wouldn't release your album if you weren't trying to hit that bracket. A lot of artists got dropped or their albums got shelved because they didn't try to deliver those radio joints.
Exactly, so I got caught up in that whirlwind. You know, that's how the business is. You can't get mad at that. It is what it is. I ain't gonna cry over spilt milk, I'm still here, baby. You know! (laughs)
4XL: In 2000, when Big L's "Big Picture" was posthumously released, you were not featured on the album. That is one thing that I thought was missing from that project. A lot of fans expected to see you on the LP and be more involved. Did the record company approach you about participating in the album?
Well what happened was, it was this cat named Rich King. He was running the project and he had a lot of things goin' on with him and Big L's mother over some money issues. It was a whole big thing over that so it was hard to reach the kid Rich King, you know? I couldn't really reach him, so it's like how I'm gonna get involved when the one that's running the project, I can't get in touch with. So it was like Mission Impossible basically! Rich was cool too but I don't know what happened, it was some money issues or whatever I guess. So they just put out whatever they put out and that was that.
4XL: In the early 2000's you made a resurgence via the mixtape circuit appearing on numerous early Diplomats mixtapes as well as Cam'ron's Roc-A-Fella debut "Come Home With Me". It's obvious you've maintained ties with your peoples over the years.
You know, a dude do something on Cam or somebody's joint just to show people I still got it and I'm still doin' my craft and doin' what I love. But at the same time, I'm out here supporting my family, so I gotta do what I gotta do.
4XL: Where do you stand with the whole Dipset movement?
I mean, me and Cam cool. Me and Jimmy cool. Me and Juelz cool. Like, I don't have no problems with nobody. Whatever's going on over there, that's internal, nah mean? I hope they can work it out, whatever it is. I don't get involved with that. I'm about my paper. I don't get invovled with all that beef and quarrelin' and all that cause at the end of the day it don't be about nothing. Just focus on gettin' your paper.
4XL: I hear that. Now, I know you have a new label called LCN Entertainment. Tell us about that.
Yeah well the whole LCN thing started with me and my man Rob. It's like: Love, Care & Nurture... or Live Corner Negroes, you know, whatever you wanna call LCN, that's us. Nah mean? Like "This Thing of Ours"... It's about the upbringing of new talent. Like, basically LCN gonna have a lot of unheard artists, like cats from my hood. Just like a new generation of cats from around the way like we was talking about earlier about Big L and his peoples was doing back then. Like, I'm sure you're familiar with Raheem from Furious Five, Melle Mel and all them. His son is signed with my label. His real name is Raheem also, but his rap name is Amen. He featured on a lot of joints we got. I got my man Took, I got these cats from Ohio.. Um.. We got a whole team that people haven't even heard. It's gonna be something new. We got a couple albums done already. I got this singing chick.. I got a male singer.. I got a lot of things poppin' that I'm doing with no label or nothing, just independent right now. But at the end of the day, we gotta get this distribution thing set up. We got a lil' short movie we trying to film. We got a lot of things on the table right now. So you know, we doin' everything.. movies, records.. everything! (laughs) We trying to do it all.
4XL: So basically you haven't exactly been quiet all this time.
I been behind the scenes! But I'm still here.. I'm just chillin'.. Right about now I'm in the gamblin' spot around my way just chillin', you know! Smokin' some of that OG Kush. (laughs) This is just some of the things I do!
4XL: Yes indeed! I want to get back to talking about the songs from the vinyl EP that we're about to drop. Earlier you told us how you met Godfather Don. When did you start linking up with him and recording?
Don had a crib in Brooklyn. He had like his own little studio or whatever. Nah mean? He was on his PM Dawn shit, he had his little dreads and all that. (laughs) I ain't seen Godfather Don in mad long. That's my dude though! Much love to Godfather Don! But when we first started getting up it had to be like '90 or '91, around there, nah mean? We used to be out in Brooklyn, he had a little studio out there and we used to go out there, me Tee U.B. and my man Jay Q.
4XL: So when exactly where these 4 songs done?
They was done in Godfather Don's crib around '94 or so.
4XL: Were those the only songs you guys did or were there other songs you guys laid down?
Nah, those was basically the only ones right there.
4XL: What was it like working with Don and recording these joints?
Don was a cool dude! Mad cool.. dumb cool.. down to the earth. Word up. It was easy working with Don. Don was crazy back then with the beats. Real crazy. Word. Shout to Godfather Don.
4XL: No question! Well that about wraps everything up, Gruff. I appreciate you taking out the time to do this interview with me and giving the fans some insight on McGruff the Crime Dog!
That's what it is. Anytime!
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