You guys know the routine by now with your boy Haj "DJ 4XL" as we deliver you continuous dope interviews with some real true hip hop vets. In the tradition we always do with our releases, I bring you two exclusive interviews back to back. In the first set, we get a chance to speak with the B-X hustle-man Shorty Long and in the second part, we chat it up with the legendary DJ Mike Smooth. It was an honor to speak to these fellas right here.
The limited 200 run of "The South Boogie EP" (OLU-004) has now been completely sold out, so if you missed out, you missed out! For those of you who have locked in your pre-order, I just received the vinyl back from the plant today and will be shipping everyone's packages out on Thursday October 30th, so look for it on your doorstep soon! Enjoy the interviews below.
SHORTY LONG INTERVIEW
Conducted on October 27th, 2008 by 4XL and One Leg Up Records
4XL: When did you first pick up the microphone and who were some of your first influences?
Well I first started to pick up the mic in '87.. '88. That's when I first got started rapping. My influences, I mean it'd have to be everyone from the Kane's, MC Shan's, the Dana Dane's, the Doug E Fresh's, the X-Clan's, the Tribe Called Quest's.. You know, anything that was hot back then. You know, I'm an older cat and I was fortunate enough to witness the birth of hip hop, so to speak.. The Kurtis Blow, the Sugarhill Gang, Funky Four Plus One and all them guys.. UTFO's and things like that.
4XL: How did you meet Mike Smooth?
I met Mike Smooth when he was DJ'ing for Lord Finesse, with my man Chilly Dee.
4XL: And how did you meet Lord Finesse?
I knew Lord Finesse from the neighborhood. Finesse was doin' music, and at that time I wasn't doin' music.. I was predominantly a hustler, I was hustlin'. So hustlers and rappers used to hang out together, you know. I mean if you a real hustler, if you was like me.. I wouldn't say I was on a Nino Brown scale but I was gettin' money! I would hang out with up and coming rappers in our neighborhood.. Finesse, Showbiz, Fat Joe, you know?
4XL: When did you first decide to start Long Shorr Records and what was your vision with the label?
I started it around like '93 or '94. I felt like this was my ideology - I believe that people don't respect you unless you bring your own dish to the dinner table, you know, that's like my philosophy on life. So, okay, I can't get anyone to just make beats for me.. You know what I'm gonna do? I'mma hit up Finesse and pay him to make a beat for me. I need a video? So I paid $12,000 to get "Shorty'z Doin' His Own Thing" video done, in cash. The dude who made "Method Man" and "Protect Ya Neck" videos, my man Gee Bee.. Gerald Barclay.. I believe he's still doing videos. He did Wu-Tang's videos and I gave him $12,000 in cash. I'm talking about in a brown paper bag, just like that, off the books. You know, I've always had my own visions of being my own boss.
4XL: Were you ever looking for a major label situation or did you plan to remain indie?
Yeah, my goal was to remain indie and become my own record label. You know, own my masters, be my own man.. Get a distribution deal. See me, I even wanted to bypass the distributors! I looked at the music game like how I looked at the hustle game - cut out the middle man as much as possible.
4XL: Tell us some things about some of the other artists on the "South Boogie" EP. Let's start with Harry-O...
Wow! Harry-O! Harry-O, man, in a word: phenomenal. A phenom. Untapped talent, man. I thought he was gonna go all the way, man. Harry-O just had the style, you know? I knew him through Finesse and all the other guys that would be hangin' in the studio. You know, I met DeShawn who became Sunkiss that was down with Joe. Um, Cuban Link.. Tony Sunshine.. Black Sheep, The Legion, that's what it was. All of us used to vibe. We'd all go somewhere 15-20 cars deep, man.
4XL: John Doe?
John Doe is from the hood. He's from Forest projects. At that time, I was a little bit in the spotlight, you know, not major but just enough respect in the neighborhood. Like guys around the way would be like "Yo!", you know, I can really rap. So I'm like, spit me something hard, something intuitive.. spit something deep for me. And you know, John Doe was with it. You know, I'm puttin' cats in the studio. I'm comin' out my pocket $125 an hour, you know just blockin' out a studio for $1100, $1200 at a time, out my pocket, man.
Moet, that's my little sister. She's another untapped talent, she's.. wow.. she's another one. And she's better than me! Her style is just crazy.. just untapped talent.
West, that's my man. You know, he wasn't really into the MC game, I just did it like you know how some cats put they man on like "Come on, get on a song with me." Sort of like how Mase had his sister and all the whole Harlem World on.
Firehead, wowweee! Lyrical, lyrical, lyrical. Him and my man Joe Sexx was out of Millbrook projects. As a young teenager, I grew up in Millbrook projects and as I got older, I started hangin' out and hustlin' with dudes. Firehead, Joe Sexx and Buckwild.. We all come from the Millbrook projects area.
4XL: You obviously had finished an album's worth of material. Why did this stuff never come out?
Well man, I had the Kurt Cobain syndrome, which a lot of artists suffer from. When I say that, I'm not exactly 100% sure how the story went but I had heard one of the reasons he killed himself was because he felt that his music wasn't good enough.. and this was a platinum selling artist! But he wasn't happy with his product and I'm one of those guys. I'm one of those atypical peoplem, like "Do it over! Do it over!" I like just sat there and tore my verses apart, like "I don't like this and I don't like that." It'd take me 2 or 3 months to finish one song before I'm like "You know what? I'mma say my verse, I don't want to hear it. Don't play it back for me, I never want to hear it again." But then I'd hear people say like "Yo man, you is hot, you was doin' your thing!" I'm like "uhhh, thanks a lot", cause it wasn't nothin' to me, I really didn't feel it like that.
4XL: Interesting. So how did things change when you ended up gaining attention with the video being played on BET and Video Music Box and ending up in The Source magazine's Singles File column?
Oh, yeah, The Source.. I still got the clippings somewhere! But yeah, I used to walk up and down the street and cats'll be like "Yo, that's Shorty Long right there!" The same cat I am now is the same cat I always been. I go anywhere by myself, I move by myself. You know, I'd sign a few autographs and kept it movin'. I'd go to the club, walk to the front, they let me in right away.. You know, I'm like "OK!" Once again that rapper lifestyle, I was already livin' that cause I was a hustler. For me back in those days, let's say I was making $150,000 to $175,000 year for my pockets. Now that was me. Now my block might've been grossin' a million or something a year, but for me, I would take 10 percent of that right there for my pockets, after I paid all my expenses, you know whatever.. I still go home with like $150,000 a year, which was great back then! You go back to the 90's, I was a superstar in the hood! I put in maybe $75,000-$80,000 of my own money into the rap game and you know.. I've made like $15,000! (laughs) I was doin' the Michael Bloomberg thing, way back then where he spent 80 million to become the mayor of New York and pays himself a dollar a year, you know? Let's just put it like that, yo.
4XL: Shorty, my man, I appreciate the interview and thanks for filling us in on all these questions.
No problem, man. Listen, Haj, it's a pleasure. I'm honored you guys would interview a dude like me. Thank you, brother! Peace.
DJ MIKE SMOOTH INTERVIEW
Conducted on October 25th, 2008 by 4XL and One Leg Up Records
4XL: What were some of your earliest hip hop experiences coming up in the Bronx as a DJ?
Most of my experiences were right there in the projects, you know? We had the blue courts, we had 146th park.. Like Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five, some of the Cold Crush and other groups, they all came through our projects whether it just be to see some of their family or just do the block parties. We had a lot of block parties on that block as well. The history of that area right there is crazy.
4XL: And that's in Forest Houses?
Yeah, that's Forest! That's Forest projects right there.
4XL: Everyone knows you from the classic LP's with Lord Finesse. How long have you and Finesse known each other?
That goes back to the early 80's. The exact date I couldn't even tell you, but we go back to at least '83 or '84.
4XL: I see you handled a lot of the production on the Shorty Long "South Boogie" EP. When did you start making beats?
I mean actually, I been doing beats since I been DJ'ing. The first beat machine I had was the Dr. Rhythm and this other beatbox machine.. small little beatbox type machine, but I forgot who made it. But I been doin' the beats as long as I've been DJ'ing, you know?
4XL: What kind of equipment did you progress onto, like for the beats on this Shorty Long EP?
Most of that was the SP-12, the 950, and um.. and there was one other keyboard I had used for that. I think it was a Yamaha. The exact model I can't recall.
4XL: Besides Shorty Long, who were some of the other MC's you were producing for around that time?
Yeah, you know Finesse.. Harry-O, who is on the first album with Finesse. I had this female artist, she never came out but she did a lot of shows. She was on the independent circuit, her name was Sex-Ty. I did some stuff for Traylude from Ironclad, that's Tito from the Fearless Four.. that's his group. J-Force, I met J-Force by accident cause he was lookin for a remix for his single "Bullseye" and I had met him off that 90.3 City College radio station because I also used help out there on the DJ tip. So I met him up there. You know, I didn't even like the song, I told him I didn't really feel the song. But surprisingly, the remix that I had did for him he liked so he pressed that up and released that. That was like around the mid-90's, something like that. He did a lot of work, he had started working with Marley. He did work for the House of Hits. He did some joints.. He started gettin' more into beats. So he was selling Marley beats and doing beats for Lords of the Underground out there as well.
4XL: I remember J-Force, that's some interesting info. So tell us what Mike Smooth is up to musically in 2008?
Really at this point, I'm just focusing on my sons. They got some projects and some things that they want to put out. So I'm working with them and helping them do that right there. Me personally, I don't really have no direct projects I'm focusing on outside of my sons.
4XL: Fill us in on your sons' project.
It's called Elite Squad. They based out of Harlem.. it's about 4 members. It's just real crazy because the 4 of them come from different areas but they all met up in school. So what they doin' is basically bringin' what they got in their areas to the music. We don't always record together but most of the songs we're putting them altogether collectively as an Elite Squad production type of album. I mean basically, for my son, it's more like I told him that with the people I been working with, you have to really come with it lyrically cause that's what people are really gonna be payin' attention for. So you can't be comin' with the half steppin, you know, and kinda cheatin' on your lyrics. You really got to put your work in on your lyrics, you know, read that dictionary and get some new words and pick some words out you know! So I took him down to the DITC party at SOB's last year, you know, introduced him to everyone that was out there at the show. He was just like ecstatic. I introduced him to O.C., to Andre, Grand Puba and all of them and I was like listen, this is who you really competin' with. That way you know, where you have to be mentally. You grew up listenin' to me playin' this music in the house but now this is where you want to be next year, on this stage performin' with these guys. I said it's good to be popular on the radio, but you still need to have that longevity, cause hits is just that - it's a hit one day and next day they forget about you.
4XL: Yeah, that's what's going on nowadays. Cats seem to have forgotten about focusing on skills and get caught up in all this street cred and rah-rah type stuff.
But if you really listen to it, 9 times out of 10, half of the shit they talkin' about they ain't living. They haven't lived that life. It's like, I can't believe what you sayin' cause it just dont fit you type of situation.. and guys walkin' around gettin' punked and gettin' slapped and you talkin' about you the biggest dude on the street? Real live niggas on the street ain't gettin punked like that, they punkin dudes like you. Like back in the day when me and Finesse was doin this, we aint have no large entourage. Reason we didn't have no large entourage was because 99 percent of the time, if I didn't know the promoter, Show knew him.. or somebody in our extended crew knew us and knew what we stood for. You ain't just gonna be runnin' up on us and think you gonna get away!
4XL: DITC definitely has a lot of respect.
The respect is first.. but they knew.. they ain't just gettin' at us like that. Cause they know what we about! They know it's gonna be some shit. If you come with it, it's gonna be somethin! So it ain't nothing, we done too many shows where we had little incidents and the same way you brought it is the same way we gave it to you. And I'm here to talk about it cause that's the way we are, that's the way we live. That's just the realness.
4XL: Word up! That concludes the interview, Mike, and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us.
Anytime, man. You got the number, you know! Anytime...