It's July 4th this week and given that you were born in England (and I gather your parents are West Indian?) Does July 4th mean much to you and will you be celebrating?
Oh 4th of July? Actually, It's like another day I can work to get ahead of the game. That's how I look at all holidays out here really. I don't think anything besides "Oh, It's an off day so I can work today and get ahead." You know what I mean hehehe? But I dunno Everyone else has fun on that day and I might take advantage of the fact that everybody's home (my wife is home, my kids are home, people are barbequing) but I don't necessarily celebrate the particular day though.
And given that you're a kinda multi-national sorta person, have you been following the soccer World Cup and if so, who have you been supporting?
Nah man - my Pops has been mad at me! See my Pops, he's been playing Soccer 'n shit for mad years right? But I never really got into sports at all in general. So, like I say, rather than playing sports, I would be like "Okay Yo-no! I'll make a beat today." I'm a writer, kinda nerd kinda dude so I haven't been keeping up on it nah.
You've been in the game for mad long now and You've got a very uncanny ear for picking up dialogue and the way people talk. How do you keep up with the modern slang and the latest lingo in hip hop?
Yes It's different sources hmmm I won't reveal my sources but It's different sources. You've got to do your research. It's a lot of reading of course. I'll pick up different dictionaries and they have different dictionaries specified to eras of slang and whatnot. Some are more in depth than others but You've got to dig and find the ones that have what you're looking for (that have the most odd sayings). But then again, a lot of it comes from just looking at old movies from different eras ('50s, '60s, '70s) and just really hearing the people speak. You can't get it better than if you actually watch something and hear them. When you read it, you're going on how you think they might have said it (they might have the definition there) but it might not being as good as actually hearing it being used in a sentence. For more modern stuff though? Stuff that's so new, like slang and the latest up-to-date shit? Well I'm kinda old. I be in the house, I don't be in the club or in the Streets or nothing like that. But I've got younger people that I know that they keep their ear to the streets for me. Every once in a while they let me know what the new Word is.
Well I suppose You've got teenaged kids now? Can you keep up with how they talk these days?
Oh yeah! Yeah definitely. They more or less learned to speak from well It's different nowadays. If it wasn't for me, they wouldn't pick up much slang. They don't speak like me: they speak more proper I wouldn't say "Queen's English" but It's like more Standard English for now. The way they teach them at school is more on some..and nobody's trying to be "cool" like that in the schools they go to anyway. No matter how much slang I might talk, they always come home from school speaking standard, good English. I might curse here and there but they just refuse to do that. It's kinda cool.
Let's talk a bit about you and your career. Where you are now, I'd say that you as an artist enjoy the most freedom out of any rap artist I've ever known to do what you want. If you compare yourself to say, fellow Rhymesayers artist Slug, he's trying to branch out but he gets a lot of flack and he's often maligned for painting outside the lines. What do you think it is about you that's allowed you to be so free as an artist and as a lyricist?
Well I've been doing this for a while I'm up to a point where my credentials ain't really questioned. Ain't nobody's really going to try and question me. I've been rhyming since day ..1, before even me and my brother was making money off this shit. So It's almost like a respect for the veteran: "Yo that crazy old man!? Let him do whatever he wants to do, fuck it!" It's kinda like that in a way but It's still kinda in a respectful way. And I see how Slug does it too. And It's difficult for me too. It's not always easy even for me. Every time you try to break into new ground and set trends, you get some type of offensive flack for it until you pull it off and then everybody's sweating you and shit right? I get that too. But I just ignore that shit: "Whatever. I'm just doing me." This is me and this is how I do my shit. Nothing is set in stone anyway. Somebody made up the standard of maybe only one album a year and people just tend to follow that. It's human behaviour: we tend to follow whatever works for the next guy. But then I'm like yo! In my experience, sometimes what the next guy does don't work for me. Matter of fact, with everything I can think of, it doesn't work like that. I had to find my own way early so that's the stuff that I do normally. I'll look at what the standard way of doing it is and I'll be like "?ight. I'll do it this way. This works. I'll put my mark on it." I'll update it and make it for me. So I've brought that same mentality into the game. This is something that comes from this being a self-employment thing. I look at it like this: if I'm the one who's writing it and I'm the one who's recording this, well then I should have full decision over how I do it on all perimeters and everybody else should work round that. A lot of times in the hip hop game, You've got people other than the artists dictating the process and the artists are trying to conform to that. And yeah It's flexible and artists are people who want to please others. But You've got artists conforming to a game that's designed by people who don't even do it. That's the thing. I'm like "Yo we're the ones doing it so let's design the game. And these people who are making a living from the sidelines? They've got to go by how we do it and if they make money, they lucky."
But what do you think it is about you that's got all these different labels wanting to put out your material (like Big Dada from the UK putting out the King Geedorah album) and all these producers wanting to do your beats (like the Victor Vaughn albums)? Why do you think it is that all these people are queuing up to work with you and yet other artists aren't so fortunate?
Uh.. I think that maybe if they would have tried, they would have been as fortunate with it as I was. The people who I work with? I talk to them, let them know how I feel "we're gonna do this bla bla bla," and we do it. They're like "Yo I'm with it" because they see I'm serious. I say this, you judge a tree by the fruit it bares. So when they've seen me pull it off twice, they know I can do it so either get down with it or don't. It's almost like my effort gives them a chance to take a risk ?cus y'know, they're used to the status quo shit too. But most of the people I deal with, at our age, one person might be into journalism, this dude might be a record company exec but we're all the same age. So once you can meet somebody on that level and talk to them like "yo! Let's do it! Let's go for it: Yes or no?" You at least need some type of basis to why the theory should work. So I'm like "I did this twice so let's go for it!" A lot of times, cats just like in a whirlwind of excitement off of it. Like Big Dada and your man over there, my man, your boy Will Ashon. I never met Will in person but we've just been doing it over the phone and emails and once we kinda both got the understanding of the shit, the cat was like "Yo fuck it! Let's do it!" And we did it and it worked out. And I think that's my appeal. I think if a lot of artists would just take the steps, "yo I've got this idea, how about we do it like this?" And however they explained it and made it make sense, yeah you'll find that people will disagree with it and be like "Nah. I've got other concerned and I don't want to take that risk." But then You've got cats like me. So, the people that I deal with are Cats just like me. No matter what field your expertise is in (as I say, you might be a journalist or you might be a record exec or you might just be a cat on the street that's just putting up the posters) I'm going to find a way that we can relate and like be "Yo let's just do it!" And just do it. That's the fun part about it for me and why I do it. Plus! I'm like there's no limit to nothing yo! Especially nowadays, moving into the future, You've got the internet, access to all information yeah?
If the input is more then the output can be greater. So this is just expressing all the input I've been getting. I have to find a way to facilitate my expression. One album a year is not going to be enough to facilitate all that information: I have to separate it. Sometimes It's a difference of opinion involved or just different sides of a coin that determines releases. It's like in the news, you have to present both sides of a story and let people judge for themselves and I look at my music the same way. If I'm doing an album, Doom may have a view of something that may seem more conservative or strict in certain ways so then I'll do an album as Vic? just so Vic? can pose the other side. Both sides are just as valid: It's just two of many different points of view.
In the last couple of years, You've been known for working with producers and providing the vocals, be that for Madvillain, Victor Vaughn or now DangerDoom. Is there any chance of you putting on your producer's cap back on and being the producer side of a collaboration?
Yep? You must be reading my mind or something yo!? But yeah, It's gradually going in that direction again. Like Ghostface Killah has this Fish Scale album out?
I had the chance to produce like five joints on that one. That's more joints than anybody else produced on that joint. So that's one step in that direction on a major level. I've got a whole new slew of instrumentals about to come out. Essential Elements is what I call that album. It's all based around physics and the periodic table. But then, at the same time, I'm doing another album with Starks (y'know, that's "Tony Starks," of Ghostface Killah fame) and that's like a duet album like how Madvillain would be except with me and him. I'll be producing it but I'll be rhyming moooooore than Madlib rhymed on the last Madvillain album. But it will be an all-Doom-Production with both Doom and Starks on the mic so that like another notch on the production belt just to rep that side of me a little bit more. An artist coming out on my label is JR (John Robinson). I produced his whole record with the exception of like two songs but I basically put that whole thing together like thematically. So It's a pretty good album and the Nigga's bringing some ill hot shit! I'm looking into the direction of developing artists as well as producing them. I won't just give somebody a bit, I want to know how they're going to freak it and their whole presentation of it. That's what I want to do with your boy Nas if he'll let me yo! He's a cool dude I've hit him up with a couple of my shits so So you'll hear Doom on a major level, Imma keep repping on an underground level - and just keeping music out there period.
Is there anything you want to do but are currently finding impossible or very difficult to get done?
You know I never thought it would almost get like this and I almost don't want to say anything. But it could get like that if I let it get to me. I do have to compromise here and there. Sometimes I've got to just go and be alone for maybe two weeks to focus. Sometimes I just can't be around my family as much as I would like to and stuff like that but I definitely have to make time to do this music. That's now as opposed to before, when I wasn't so busy. I didn't have anything to do, I was broke and my phone wasn't ringing because nobody was calling so I had time to do things. But Now? It's busier with so many people trying to get at me, I've got more children now and stuff like that so It's a bit of a balancing act. I've got to take time out to go into that cabin - you know how sometimes these writers will go away to some cabin somewhere and lock down with some typewriter or something? It's almost like that and I've got to do it. You've definitely you have to make the time to do it. I've got so many ideas right now that I don't even know if I can do them all but I'm trying to find a way to do it. There should, logically, be a way to do it. If I just cut out some of the shit maybe? I don't go to the clubs anyway so that's a big plus right there. I might go to the bar but that don't take no time.
So I take it then that You've never suffered from Writer's Block?
I couldn't say I was immune to that though. It comes with the length of time: You've just got to roll with it. It clears up but when it comes, that just means "Alright. Right now's just not my time to write: I've got to do something else". I'll listen to music or go do something else instead until it clears up. The whole writing thing? It comes in waves to me. It's a kind of energy thing where, when it hits you, it hits you: You've just got to hope that you have a pen and a pad ready to take down that information. Sometimes it comes to me and I'll laugh at the rhyme "Awh shit! That was an ill one!" But forget to write it down and then, the next day, I try to remember it and It's gone. So It's a matter of trying to be professional. It's about keeping a pen and a pad and write that shit down, collect them all and then spit them. The writer's block will come and go and I ain't going to say I'm immune to it.
Totally on a different tangent: one of the guys that gave you your early break was MC Serch and I don't know if you know but he's putting together a reality TV programme called "The White Rapper Show" which, I gather, is a spoof reality TV series about White Rappers. I wonder if you had any comments about that?
h: sounds interesting.
Don't you think It's a bit of a step backward for American hip hop culture and race relations there in?...Nah, I dunno .?
I have to see the show to truly comment on that one. But knowing Michael, the way he probably freaked it, it'll have to have a twist to it because he's a smart dude. He's probably covered all the angles and all that. But it depends: I have to see it to comment really.
Which did you prefer: X-Men III or The Fantastic Four movie?
Oh alright I have to say that being a comic-book fan -
"None of them?"
Well that's harsh but that's the truth. Looking back, when we used to read those joints when we was younger, we had to picture in our heads the actual action sequences. Yes they have pictures in the comicbooks of course but It's a two-dimensional still-frame. But then in our imagination, we could really see them flying or cutting some dude in half and we could really picture it. Some of these films I wouldn't even bother to go and see but with The X-men joint? I think I brought my nephew and my son with me and we just went and saw it . And, well y'know: I'm no fan of remakes from comics to movies. You know, with all the digital shit, it wasn't as ill as Lou Farigno. The whole digital shit made it kind of corny. But if I had to choose any one that I would say was the closest depiction and the most accurate recreation, it would have to be X-men. That Fantastic Four shit!? As soon as I saw Doom with that ugly-ass cape on, I knew I wasn't going to bother go see. It was like corny: they changed the story around too much. Some of them are not supposed to be in some people's hands. You've got to leave it in the hands of somebody that's going to do justice to it you know what I mean? The first X-men movie? That shit was kinda ill!
Excellent! Now your Homeboy Ghostface, when he was in the Wu they had a comic book out - and I know that subsequent to that, Ghostface released like an action figure - y'know, a doll? Are you going to be doing a similar multi-media thing?
Oh no doubt! No doubt. Starks is a leader in the industry and cutting-edge technology so he always kinda beats us all to the punch. But every time he does something like that, it opens doors for us less fortunate to come through . He broke the ice. So yeah you'll probably see some Doom merchandise out there similar to that - but It's still gotta have a Doom twist. It won't be anything that you can really imagine. It'll have something bugged out about it - like the mask is not removable or some ill shit like that. I've got some ill shit in the works. I've got a cartoon I'm working on I've got a lot of ill-dope shit coming up. Nobody will be bored with what I have coming.
Excellent! I've heard, through the grapevine, that King Geedorah's making a comeback? Can you tell me who's going to be playing the other two heads - because I gather you're not tight with one of the former members of King Geedorah if that's correct?
Oh. I hire artists to do this shit. With King Geedorah, how it will be is that well, It's always going to be different motherfuckers on that shit. It don't matter who I'm "tight" with or not or whatever: It's always going to be new motherfuckers every time as I'm bringing new artists out. I'll break an artist in, give them a chance to shine and then I'm going on to the next artist. It's up to them if they want to sink or swim. If they want to get personal or any of that bullshit, that's up to them. But me? I'm on some rough and rugged art shit. So on the new Geedorah shit, you might hear Lord Smog - If I can find them, they're my peoples. You've got a couple of different Cats - like Cats who couldn't fit on the last album? like this cat Mulgera, he's an artist I'm going to get on this one . People I'm not "tight" with? Whatever. Them motherfuckers wouldn't turn down no money, I'll bet you that much. If I need a horn section, Imma hire me a horn section - WHATEVER!
What have you got in your Walkman or on your IPod at the moment?
Oh. You know I just got one of those IPod things. I tried to stay away from it but y'know I got pulled into the whole technological thing and couldn't avoid it no more right? So what do I have on it? Mostly Jazz and Brazilian stuff. The joint Alter Ego by James Williams. The Kenny Darren Trio did another version of that so I've got a few versions of Alter Ego on there. Then I have Brazilian stuff on there too like Georgie Ben, some Caetano Veloso and stuff like that. I don't keep too much hip hop on there unless It's a song that I'm working on and I've got to listen to to add a verse or fix something. It's mainly stuff like that that influences hip hop and not necessarily hip hop that's already made. I would like to get back to listening to some of that stuff - it might be interesting. But doing this, I had to make the choice between making hip hop or listening to it. Either I'm a fan or I'm a professional. Right now I'm a professional but I've been a fan for a long time. Now I'm in the game, I've got to be about my business.
And when you listen to music, are you able to just listen to music for fun? Or are you always listening to music with an ear toward sampling it?
See mainly I just listen to listen. But then, I look for music to complement the mood to wherever I'm at. Whether you're on the beach, in the park or at home, whether you're alone or in a party situation, music sets the tone. Sometimes I might go to a party and they might be playing some funk but I won't notice: I'm just there with my friends. But then somebody will play a record and I'll be "Shit! What the fuck was that!?" I may be listening to jazz just to tune out - y'know: I feel like chilling out; the kids aren't here; I've got a couple days by myself; I want to get into the mood to write. So I mostly listen to jazz. It's mostly instrumental so it doesn't throw my words off. But then, I might hear something that might come in ten minutes into the record like some drums and I'm like "Snap!" I guess that that's a side effect of casual listening.
Here in the UK, some politicians have started kicking up a fuss over Rap lyrics all over again. Do you censor what your kids listen to? Do you take an active interest in what your kids listen to?
I definitely take an active interest in what they're listening to. I'm aware of what's out there. I'm like this: if you drive your children in the right direction and let them know what's going on in the world (pros AND cons), I'm noticing they themselves, if they are giving the opportunity to choose for themselves, they usually choose the right one - especially if they use you their parent as an example. My son is fourteen. He don't listen to Rap shit at all. He's more like me. But then I've got a son who's three, he's new to the world. So if BET is on and he hears a beat he likes, he's going to be jamming to that beat. My Mom's like "don't be putting that on whilst he's here put some childrens? programmes instead." But I can see how certain sounds might be appealing to him so I'll explain it to him as he gets older. I'll explain the content and make sure to instil the right morals and whatnot. But I think that with children in general, if you show them both sides of the coin and be honest with them - and don't try to hide anything from them - they generally get a head start on things. Yes they see what their peers are doing but they also see what their parents are doing. My sons are my best friends - and if you treat kids like that, it generally works out good.
I'm coming to the end of my questions - Phew! We got through them quickly Can you tell me a bit about what you have got lined up after the new Dangerdoom? Is there anything else we should be looking out for?
Yeah: right now we've got the Dangerdoom remixes. It's like I did a whole other nine songs real quick. What with the momentum of the album, I got the opposite of writer's block I guess. What's the opposite of "writer's block?" Once you break writer's block and You've got the momentum going, You've got a lot of residual shit left so a lot of that went into the Dangerdoom remixes - available online at adultswim.com for free download. So that's something I did. I'm working on part 2 of Madvillainy right now - that's coming out bananas! It's going to feel like a continuation but at the same time, you won't know what to expect. Also the Doom/Stark duet album is coming soon. Like I say, It's my production but I might let somebody catch some wreck too. It'll be me and Starks and I'll try to keep ahead of him as possible on a lyrical tip but You've got to understand I'm doing the beats too - I'm not making any excuses heheheh. What else? A straight-up Doom album will come later After all these duet joints, you'll hear from The Villain in canon form like that. Of course the next Geedorah album I'm doing something with your boy Nas like I said before - it might be a duet kind of thing similar to the Ghost joint. So there's things going on in the mainstream, things going on in the so-called "Underground" and just keeping it interesting all around.
Just to very finally draw things to a close, if you want to end with any shout-outs, words of wisdom or (once again) flag up anything we should be checking for in the near future?
Like I said: The Dangerdoom album is still out there; the remixes are out there; Support Dangermouse because he's a good dude; my production records; Me and Tony Starks/Ghostface Killah are working on our album right now; Ghostface's album Fish Scale is out right now and that shit is banging so if you haven't checked that, go check that. Other than that? Listen to Rap and you'll hear about the Villain.