– Can you tell me in short how it all started for NYGz?
Shiggy Sha’s aunt lived in my mother’s building. Me and Shiggy Sha have been friend since we were young teenagers. Shiggy Sha’s aunt has a son named Nemo. Me and Nemo were cool first, we were childhood friends, he introduced me to his cousin, so I met Shiggy through him. When I met Shiggy back then, he was already rhyming. This was ’86, ’85 when I met him, ’84, he was already rhyming. He was with a group. I wasn’t rapping back then, I wasn’t into that.
– So you just used to hang with him?
Nah, I wasn’t really hanging with him. He wasn’t from the Bronx, I’m from the Bronx so he used to come hang with me and run around with me and all that. Later on in life, around ’88, ’89 something, Gangstarr lived in my neighborhood. Me and Guru got cool, me and Premier got cool. And they kept telling me “Yo you need to rap”. See, I’m a hiphop head also. I know everyone’s lyrics. Up till this day, when a song comes out and I love it, I know the lyrics before the song goes off. So me and Premier used to hook up with each other and talk about different people’s lyrics and stuff like that. And Premier would say “You always wanna judge somebody’s lyrics, why don’t you write some lyrics?” And I was like “You know what, I am gonna write some lyrics. I never wrote a rhyme, so why don’t you start it.” So he showed me how to start a rhyme and how to pattern it and then I called Sha and I was like I’m gonna be a rapper. He was like “Get outta here.” Cause in the area where I grew up in, rappers are like clowns. You got that slang in Amsterdam? They’re not taken serious. And I never wanted to be a rapper cause I always wanted to be taken serious.
– So why did you start doing it serious?
I was tired of going to jail. I could seriously go to jail or seriously rap. So I chose the rap- road. I was tired of going to jail. Plus it wasn’t like I had to do a demo and had to run all over the place trying to get a deal. I already had the dudes that were gonna look out for me.
– How did you and Premier started doing songs together?
Well, we were working with Guru first. And you know Guru is the MC of Gangstarr, so his production was more from an MC standpoint. It was more just drums and a bassline, it wasn’t really like a track. This was early in the game. But after that, I guess Premier saw some potential in us. So he asked Guru “Yo can I work with them?” and Guru was like “Shit please, take ‘em, cause I can’t do nothing with them.”
– But you guys did work with some projects with some big names.
We did two Ill Kid samplers with Guru. And all the stuff that we’ve done with names and stuff like that is cause we were here in the studio, and just being in the studio, that culture, growing up in the studio. We used to go to D&D, which is now HeadQCourterz cause Premier purchased it. We were going to D&D for fifteen years, when we were kids, we grew up in there.
– You guys had the name NYG’z already?
Yeah. That’s the name I created for my homeboys in my neighborhood, for my homeboys in New York that I cool with in all the boroughs. I was calling us the New York Giants. Giants is a slang in New York for someone that is well respected. He is a big nigga so respect him. That was at the point when we were children. So I just said we are the New York Giants. NYG’z. And when I was in prison, I used to end all my letters N Y G Z.
– You been working with that name for a while now, so people will recognize it.
They recognize it more on a street level thing first than a music level thing. And when they found out we were doing music, they didn’t believe it.
– But they had to take you serious after a while right?
Oh yeah they took us serious, they liked the music we were putting out.
– Ok let’s fast forward a little bit. Premier started working with you guys. He took you under his wing. And you guys put out your first album “Pros and Cons”.
Well what happened was, Premier said he had a beat for us, he wanted us to use. He had it in his mind, he was gonna hook it up. When he hooked it up he wanted to write to it, spit to it. And if we spit to it right, he knew we need to make so much from now on. So he gave us “GIantz Ta Thiz”, the Seven minutes of Funk-beat, but he chopped it up and put it another way and we did that and Premier was loving it. He gave us “Strength” and he told us, “Let’s go back to back.” No hook no nothing, so we went back to back, he liked that and he was like “Alright, I’m working with you. I like your work ethics.” We’re talking about DJ Premier, so you can imagine what his work ethics are like. He is like slave in Jamestown Virginia in the 1500’s. But getting down with Premier was real hard. When we were down with Guru, it was just one take in the booth. Now we did one week. Premier would make you do the same song over and over and over and over and over. The same vocals, the same verse, the same verse until he feels its right.
– So when the song hits number one, you can’t even listen to it no more haha.
Yeaaaaah, like you don’t even wanna hear your own song when somebody’s listening to it. Yeah Premier makes you work. He did it to Biggie, he did it to Christina Aguilera, he did it to everybody.
– Yeah but that’s how he gets the best out of everybody.
And that’s another fact like you know, we are DJ Premier’s group. So that’s a lot of pressure. I can imagine you got people like Jay-Z, Nas and they wanna see what this group of DJ Premier is so open about, where he is putting all his time and energy and money behind. We wanna see what they’re doing. Or you got people saying “Why he signed them for? Why he aint sign us? You know what I mean? So there’s a lot of pressure.
– Now that you’re talking about the pressure. Wouldn’t you wanna be NOT associated with him? Stand as a group by itself, NYG’z.
Pressure makes diamonds. It makes diamonds out of strong people. So Premier’s pressure is gonna make diamonds out of us.
– You gotta stand on ya own feet at some point.
Oh we are standing on our own feet. Premier ain’t writing our rhymes. He’s not saying no rhymes.
– I am talking from a crowd’s perspective. Let’s say you get cut loose from him at some point. Start doing ya own thing. Yeah you write the rhymes but then you gonna start using other beats. Aren’t you scared people are gonna be like “Hmmm…I don’t know, now that Premier is not involved.”
I’m not scared, but I know that’s a reality. But right now I really don’t see us not fucking with Premier. I don’t really see it. Our thing is, I’m a real loyal person. I don’t really see what we can’t work out. A real good argument or a real good conversation, I don’t see what we can’t work out.
– But aren’t you interested in trying something new? Something different?
Of course, but when you mean try a new boss, try a new team, nah. I am staying on this boat.
– Ok back to the questions. “Pros and Cons” is the first album that was released, but you guys just released another album.
No, Pros and Cons is not the first album that’s gonna be released. Pros and Cons is gonna be the first album that Premier does all the way from Intro to Outro. Pros and Cons hasn’t even been done yet. “Welcome to G-Dom” is the album we just released. October 9th it was released.
– I saw the video from “Ya dayz R #’d”.
Oh for real, did you like it?
– Actually, it gave me that old school hiphop feeling again, like that real hiphop feeling.
That’s actually funny that you’re saying that. Do you remember a group called Limp Bizkit?
Ok, well years ago, Fred Durst came to New York and was running around with us and we let him hear a few songs. And he said “It sounds good but I don’t know, it sounds like that old New York shit, like that ooooold New York shit.”
– Yeah but that’s really what it sounds like, I love it.
You made me so happy when you said that, you might have thought you’d hurt our feelings with it, that you were gonna hurt us saying it, you might not wanted to, but you made me sooo happy. Cause that’s what I wanted. I want you to hear New York. It should be ready to be accepted by the world, but it should be known that it’s a New York joint.
– Well that’s definitely a New York joint. I could tell.
– It definitely sound like New York, and it brings back that old school feeling, and I myself am an old school head so I love it.
What happened to MC-ing and production? No gimmicks, no funny outfits. We’re not the biggest drug dealers that ever lived. We’re not the illest killers. We don’t have the biggest chains. We’re not driving convertible Bentley’s that fly and go under water, you know. All that foolishness. I’m just tired of hearing that crap.
– Well I guess if you don’t have all of that stuff, I’m gonna cut the interview short…..Nah just kidding.
– Having “new” people bringing back that old school stuff is innovative to me right now.
Everything takes a 360 though. We see it now. You have Jay-Z going back to not wearing jewelry no more, no big flashy extravagant videos. Now its beats and rhymes, not a whole bunch of gimmicking shit.
– I read on y’all bio that you guys are the New York state of mind. Everybody claims to be something, explain to me why you guys are the New York state of mind.
There are a few reasons. One of the main reasons is that our musical influence, not the individuals but sounds, were New York based. We were both born and raised in New York. This is what we really know. And maybe after a few years and some traveling we’ll be able to, you know, I guess associate a worldly sound with our music also. But now, what we know is New York.
– What can we expect from NYG’z in the future? What’s going on with Europe? You guys are on a UK promo tour right now, but what’s happening with Amsterdam and the rest of us?
Yeah I wanna come out to Amsterdam man, I don’t wanna come out for smoking, but that’s another point for coming. I wanna see the scene, see the town and the culture. I’ve never left America, this is my first time leaving America. There’s a big hiphop scene in Europe. I think people here know a lot more than people in the States, cause people over here take it for granted.
– Anything else?
“Pros and Cons”, early next year, fully produced by DJ Premier. We got a couple of DVD’s coming out called G-Dom, a follow up to the album that’s out. That’s it for now. I mean, Year Round Records, we still got Blaq Poet, we got a kid named Khaleel from Texas, another kid named Nick Jarvis. There’s a lot to come from the label. We can’t wait to start doing videos, doing our own videos, instead of hiring people. We got Premier on Sirius Satellite radio, we got our inside plugs to the radio plus we got Funkmaster Flex in here right now, he is loving us.
– Thank you for letting me in on you guys.
No problem, Premier just walked in, you need him?
– Yeah maybe he can say something.
Panchi: Ok hold on.
Premier: Yo yo yo.
– What’s good? I was just talking to Panchi and he told me a whole lot of stuff about NYG’z. It was a good conversation. What can you tell me about them?
Just the fact that they both have lyrical skills on a level of rap and shit. And on top of that, I personally knew Panchi from way back. I knew they’re street credibility was already well respected in their neighborhood. A lot of rap artists nowadays can’t really go back to their neighborhoods and chill. They may have been the quiet guy that always stayed inside and now they’re rapping, looking tough in the videos and all. You gotta have some type of track record where people have heard of you as a person. If you come from a street neighborhood, the streets gotta know you. I came from Texas and I still have street respected name out there. When I moved to New York, all of the tough guys that were doing their thing, also gave me a certain respect. They saw my drive to get somewhere so they also respected my hustle. And I can still go back to any neighborhood, when I lived in Brooklyn near Biggie, when I lived in East New York where my manager lives, by the projects and also when I lived in the Bronx, when I met Panchi, in 1989, we came out with the first Gangstarr single “Manifest”, Panchi was a very well known in the street and very well respected in the old neighborhood, and he still is. Panchi wasn’t really a rap guy but he always had so much knowledge and verbal talk about other people’s lyrics, that I told him he should take a shot at making a record.
– Yeah he told me that.
It was really just a situation to keep him off the streets from hustling and going to jail and from there we put a lot together for “Welcome 2 G-dom” and it came out a good project. Its not an official album, its more a mixtape that turned into an album, with the standards and comparison to music what’s out now. It sounds more like an album than a lot of the garbage that’s out now with only 1 or 2 songs you can enjoy. But the official album is gonna be out soon, it’s called “Pros and Cons”, we’re preparing to put that out next year. I have my first 4 artists signed to the label. Blaq Poet is next, with an EP. We putting out Khaleel, who is from my hometown from Texas, putting a young guy in the game to fill the gap, with his lyrical skills and my beats. He also had his own producers in Texas who did a hell of a job putting that together. We don’t have a title for the album yet but it will be coming out too. Then we got this guy named Nick Jarvis who is from Jersey and we will be putting his album out, so there’s a lot of action going on in Year Round Records.
– And what can we expect from you?
Yeah I’ll be working on my album as well. Working on the DJ Premier album finally.
– I was just asking Panchi about Amsterdam and the touring in Europe, what’s up with that.
We will do that next year. We are trying to put together a tour for now in March with NYG’z, Blaq Poet, myself, Big Shug, the Gangstarr Foundation and Freddie Foxx, so we are working on that for March, it would be a beautiful thing if that goes down.
– Aight thanks.
No doubt, thanks for the love. I just wanna give a shout out to my man Deams out there in Amsterdam. He’s been a soldier, a rider for us, since the early days of Gangstarr. So a big shout out to my man Deams.