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Interview with Buckshot

CEO of Brooklyn-based Duck Down Music Inc, otherwise known as Buckshot is releasing his fifth collaboration album, Backpack Travels. Produced by New Zealand’s own P Money, the album features the likes of Joey Bada$$, David Dallas, CJ Fly, T’Nah Apex, Chelsea Reject, Steele of Smif N Wessun and Raz Fresco. Alongside his business partner and long-time friend Dru Ha, he now manages the likes of Pharoahe Monch and Talib Kweli. Wordplay got to speak with the New York rap legend to get his views on the new generation of hip hop, female rappers and how the genre has branched out across the globe.

Buckshot.LO__0How did you meet P Money and what was your first impression of him when you started working on BackPack Travels?

I met P Money before the BackPack Travels and Dru Ha actually introduced me to P initially. I respected P and his work before, which is what caused us to work together. I thought he was an awesome producer.

What was it about his work that captured you, especially as he was all the way in New Zealand?

I’m in the heart of where hip hop was birthed, so for me to hear a producer in New Zealand that had the same breath of life that producers from New York have got was even better. I know that it’s got to be in his chest, it’s got to be in his heart. He’s got to love hip hop no matter where he’s at. He also has a place in New York, but it wasn’t about that. It was about the hip hop love that’s from him, and growing up in New Zealand gave him such an influence that he just had a natural sound, and I knew could fuck with that. I said to myself, “Wow, you know what, you could tell that if you go out to New Zealand, the hip hop scene is crazy. You just know, a place where they respect it.”

With hip hop ‘turning 40’ this year, is that something you see as something that can be measured?

It’s a beautiful thing for me to even recognise hip hop as being 40 years-old. I’m not running from hip hop like a lot of people do. A lot of people run from certain things because they don’t want to be limited, as I understand it. They don’t want to be measured, and that’s the reason why I’m not mad at ‘em, do you feel me?

I ask because of what you were saying about Money being from New Zealand. You recognise that we do have a lot of respect for the culture down under. Is it a buzzy experience for you, coming from where it was born, to realise the affect your culture, that was built from pretty extraordinary circumstances, had had such a huge affect on the world?

I mean… Why not? Hip hop was started here for us as a way out culture, imagine if you will, some people being quote on quote bullied and shoved into a fate, where people are told “You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you can’t be this, you can’t be that,” and then all of a sudden we create this culture called Hip Hop and people are like, “What the hell is that!?” And then all of a sudden it grew big people had no choice but to respect it.

I feel like it gave a lot of us around the world something to relate to and in a sense, adopt as our own.

Yeah it becomes the same influence over there, like “Yo, you know what, we too can recognise what it feels like to be culturally oppressed.” Where you want to speak out against the things that are handed down to you as a package, and you’re like, “Look I didn’t ask for this meal. Why are you giving me something I didn’t ask for?” Socially, culturally, politically, “I didn’t ask for this.” And then you look over to hip hop and hip hop says, “Well hey, we have an outlet for you to change that.” You know Barack Obama’s our president and he listen to hip hop!

Today’s Tupac’s birthday. [Ed. Note: Aleyna spoke with Buckshot on Tupac’s birthday June 16th.] I wanted to ask you about your song Killuminati on BackPack Travels and whether you thought, if Pac was still alive, would there be a stronger movement in hip hop and rap to maintain a political and social consciousness as opposed to the huge commercial route that happened for the culture in the late 90’s/early 2000’s.

If you’re asking would I have had a more politically-influenced impact on the people as far as the BackPack Travels itself? Look, I always was a backpacker subconsciously and on my first album I said: “Booming like a speaker with my 100-dollar sneakers. Baggy black jeans, knapsack, and my beeper”.

I also said: “Get on my skateboard and do a motherfuckin’ driveby.”  I was always in tune with the culture, you know what I’m saying? I was always in tune with the culture of the back pack, I was always in tune with the culture of a back pack, skateboard and the whole underground culture.  I aint gon’ front. Like I said everybody from KRS One to me, I always was an underground dude, and I always had some traction underground. I was never a commercial type of dude. I love hip hop, I don’t even think, truthfully, I’m not against commercialism for everybody else, I’m just against it for myself. I let it be known that I’m not with it, but I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. Personally I just take another route.

I wanted to talk about you featuring T’Nah Apex and Chelsea Reject on Backpack Travels, what was it about those female emcees in particular that made you want to work with them and put them on the LP?

I’m such a fan of T’Nah,I damn near want to cry sometimes because I’m such a fan of hers. She doesn’t even understand it! She really doesn’t get that I’m such an avid fan and it’s crazy – if she puts out a record – I’ll know all the lyrics, know all flows, wake up to her, go to sleep. I know all her verses on the CJ Fly record she got, so for me, it just was a blessing to be able to work with her. And, Chelsea Reject is one of the dopest females out there. For me to have two dope females on the record, that’s light.

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After hearing BackPack Travels and hearing those two, it felt like in terms of women in rap, there’s hope of some actual, hard core, substance to come out. I’m wondering if you feel Nicki Minaj has been a positive or negative thing for female rap — in your opinion.

She’s also dope. I think she’s a positive influence, only because she decided to go commercial. That’s what I’m trying to tell you, if you decide to go commercial, it’s not like I think anything’s wrong with it. That’s her and that’s the style that she chose, that’s what she wanted to do and she’s a dope emcee I think she’s impeccable, and damn gorgeous. I think if you hear some of her new stuff, she’s just dope. Again, the problem is like any female – if you ‘stay on my level’ as far as an artist you’re not going to go anywhere. Once you start going quote on quote, “I want to be a superstar,” not just a star, people start judging you automatically. The ones who care stop and say,  “Oh you fell off, you sold out blah, blah, blah.” The ones who don’t care start saying “You’re a great entertainer,” and I admire entertainment anytime.

As I have a record label I’m kind of compromised. Instead of me being a superstar, I’m actually a CEO — which to me is better than being a superstar,because you have longevity and scalability. Once I sign Pharaohe, I get his fans. Once I sign Talib, I get his fans, you know what I’m saying?  A person like Nicki Minaj has to do whatever she has to do to keep being a superstar and that’s an impressive thing because [those] people have to do shit that I would never do. But I don’t think Nicki has compromised herself as much as it looks that way, the only thing is probably the fake tittes and she still would have done that if she got a little money and was an underground artist. It only costs a couple of g’s and she really did want to get some fake boob-tits anyway.

Do you recognise the idea of she’s doing what she does and letting others through the door type of a deal?

I mean, look, you know… sure. But if you want to be that type of emcee, like Chelsea Reject and T’nah, they fall under the Lauryn Hill category and once again she just created that genre for politically conscious, culturally aware females that loved to bring their style of music in.

It’s hard for females in that Lauryn Hill category to find their spot, we have some dope female emcees here and it feels as though it’s tough for them to find their spot.

It’s hard for anybody that’s not on some Nicki Minaj shit to find a spot. But the problem with that is there’s so many emcees or so many females that’s not on it like that and the ones that do come on don’t get the light because they seem fake, they seem corny, they’re sound is trying to be after Nicki you know it sounds made up — Nicki has her own style, she was never made up.

On Chelsea Reject’s Radi-8 EP on Soundcloud, an emcee named Keemie said, “Too many rappers rapping, but they need be fans”…

I mean, lyrically, I try to get at anybody that’s good. I’m a lyrical emcee, Chelsea is very creative like that. She won’t just create rap that will get by, she’s very explorative even in her lyrics; even the way she breaks down songs is very creative. She will get some of the artists and all of the artists opinions. When you do an album you might be going in a creative direction and write about songs like this or that, but when you’re making a mixtape. who knows where you’re going to go? But that’s when you usually get the best shit.

With Joey Bada$$ and CJ Fly on Flute, how did that come about?

Just having a relationship with them. They’re both from Brooklyn and they respect the hip hop era of the 90’s, and respect our music from the 90’s.  All those things build up and it just becomes something like: “I got this beat and it starts to sound like it can’t be done no other way but to have Joey on it!” He’s just dope.

And what’s something that you’re appreciating about the next generation of hip hop rappers?

That the underground of today respect the underground of yesterday; that’s what I respect about the hip hop artists of today, like the Flatbush Zombies, the Pro Era cats and the Kendrick Lamars, those kids growing up; those are the examples of the ones who say, ‘No, we do respect the 90’s‘.

Y’all always talk about the artists that don’t respect the 90’s but here we are – Kendrick is on the west coast, Joey’s on the east coast, the reason why everybody’s still complaining is we just ain’t got nobody from the South yet with that. Once somebody comes from the south, it’s a wrap because you got people from New Zealand that’s on that, people from Australia that’s on that, people from Toronto that’s on that, people from Spain; everybody on that back pack hip hop shit except from the south. The south are the only ones who are on that commercial level. Once we gain that commercial light, it’s a wrap! We almost had it with Kanye, but then Kanye decided to switch over and go commercial.

What’s something that you feel is whack about the new generation?

I don’t know because as much as I feel like rappers from down south is straight garbito — like garbage – I think that they have influence because they’re entertainers and not emcees. So I really don’t know. Their beats are pretty dope so it’s like, “Whatever, I ain’t mad at you.” I think the only thing that’s whack is when rappers make records about complaining. That’s what’s whack to me, like,  “Yo they don’t respect New York, they don’t respect the underground,” or “Yo this is the real hip hop,”  I don’t like that. I try not to complain, I try to just say respect people and they will respect you back.

And what’s your favorite shit to listen to?

I’ve got a lot of different shit. For me, a lot of my shit is single-based so I might hear a Nicki Minaj single, Look At Them N*ggas,  I might have a Wiz Khalifa like We Dem Boyz or I might have Joey Badass 95 Til Infinity. I just have different joints, I’m all over the place. It’s not really just one joint that I dig.

By Aleyna Martinez

Backpack Travels – Buckshot and P-Money can be purchased from the Duck Down website here.

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