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PHAT KAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF

The 313, the D or Detroit Rock City is home to some of the most polished emcees and producers in the hip-hop game. Unfortunately, it took the untimely passing of J- Dilla and Proof before the rest of the world could take notice. Prior to this inopportune exposure, the Motor City, at least within the hip-hop world, for all intensive purposes was linked to the commercial exploits of Eminem. No disrespect to Slim Shady, who might be one of your favorite rappers “Top Five Lyricists”, but he does not embody the spirit and consciousness of Detroit. A sentiment echoed by some of the city’s rappers; moreover, you will be hard pressed to hear Eminem’s tracks on commercial radio outlets although if you are a devout fan, you might hear him on his birthday, but that’s about it. I have always wondered why Eminem was the only rapper allegedly out of Detroit to have so much commercial success. Is it the H2O that’s consumed by Detroit’s population that triggers the violence that ultimately overcomes its rap citizens? Or is it because of the city’s abundance of Coney Island locations? Unfortunately for us, and rap enthusiasts the world over, the question remains unanswered.

Not many rappers can actually say that they had the opportunity to work with a living legend or can profess that they were there when it all started; enter the resilient Ronnie Cash and his verbally  formidable alter ego, Phat Kat. Deeply entrenched in the Detroit hip-hop scene, Phat Kat now appears at the helm of the formidable Detroit movement that conforms to no musical boundaries. I recently chopped it up with Cash discussing his newest release, hip-hop from overseas and the late Dilla and his brother Illa-J who is destined to carry on in his gargantuan footsteps.

ER: Why your newest release is entitled Carte Blanche?

Phat Kat: I mean it really speaks for itself, I had carte blanche over the whole process of creating this album as far as the beat selection, to you know who I had on it, the order, the sequencing you know to everything.

ER: You were one of the artists that spoke out against people capitalizing on Dilla’s untimely death, could you speak more on that?

Phat Kat: I mean basically it is a whole fad now. You know with the passing of Dilla everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon, as far as waving the Dilla flag. Where was all this people when he was living? So it’s just corny to me.

ER: Detroit is finally getting its shine; do you think the rest of the hip-hop world finally caught up with the sounds of Detroit or vice versa?

Phat Kat: Not even or, the whole thing is you know… I mean we have been doing what we have been doing for years now. It just so happens that like you said man with the last question since the passing of Dilla and Proof man everybody wants to you know look and see what’s going on in Detroit now but you know it ain’t nothing new we have been doing it, everybody else is catching on late.

ER: How does it feel to be one of the pioneers of the Detroit hip-hop scene?

Phat Kat: I mean that’s a blessing. It is a…I look at it as like you know a good thing. I have been around since the beginning and it’s just a blessing that I am still here creating music that’s still you know… keeping up with what is going on.

ER: What’s your fondest J-Dilla memory?

Phat Kat: There are so many man but you know, I mean just being in the studio recording we just used to have a lot of fun recording in the lab.

ER: What are feelings about Illa-J?

Phat Kat: Oh Illa-J that’s my mans right there. I have been knowing him since he was a little kid. It’s just good to see him carry on the tradition that he (Dilla) started.

ER: Your album is a who’s who of talented Detroit producers, is there a reason why you opted to showcase homegrown talent?

Phat Kat: I mean basically you know that was done because I mean these was cats that I always dealt with and have been dealing with. I just wanted to show the world that you know … we got the best if not some of the best artists and producers, singers in Detroit and I just wanted to bring that into the forefront.

ER: Do you think 8 Mile was an appropriate representation of the D?

Phat Kat: You mean 8 Mile as far as…

ER: The movie, people don’t realize that 8 Mile is a stretch of road…

Phat Kat: Yeah really it is. They had some of the elements as far the hip-hop scene and The Shelter. It brought notoriety to the city and anything that is going to bring notoriety to what we doing and the city it’s a plus.

ER: When did you realize you wanted to become a rapper, when did you get your first taste?

Phat Kat: Men I got bit by the bug after I went to Fresh Fest and seeing that and the Whodini “Freaks Come Out At Night” video.

ER: I seen the “Cold Steel” video which I think is tight….

Phat Kat: Thank you.

ER: How did that come about, who came up with the concept?

Phat Kat: Anthony Garth, the director, he created the whole process, the whole concept of the cold steel video. We just went out and shot it in one day; we went around the city and really captured the whole essence of Detroit.

ER: Do you plan on releasing the video through TV outlets or is it going to remain an Internet only video?

Phat Kat: Yeah we just got the clean version back so we are going for you know MTV2 you know stuff like that.

ER: There’s a lot of chemistry between you and Guilty Simpson on “Nightmare”; somewhat reminiscent of Styles and Jada when they get on a track together, have there been any discussions of a joint venture?

Phat Kat: We haven’t talked about it but I have been doing a lot of interviews and people have been asking so you know I mean if the public wants it its nothing for me and Guilty to go in the lab and knock out some joints.

ER: Are there any producers outside of Detroit you would like to work with?

Phat Kat: Most definitely, I am in close contact with a lot of producers from all over the world. Like right now, my man Jake One that’s my guy right there. He got some serious bangers that I am going to be working with on the next album. This next album is going to be crazy.

ER: Being that you have being around the world what’s your take on the British and French hip-hop scene?

Phat Kat: Oh man, I love it. I mean on some real stuff that is where the next hot stuff is going to come from. It’s going to come from Europe, as far as you know hip-hop.

ER: What’s next for you?

Phat Kat: Next for me man, I mean I am just touring, promoting the “Carte Blanche” album. We in the lab trying to knock out stuff for the next album; me and Elzhi   are trying to complete this project, The Cold Steel Project. Me and Illa-J working on the 2nd Down album. We just you know, trying to keep it moving, keep building, raising awareness of Detroit hip-hop.

ER: What’s your favorite Coney Island location?

Phat Kat: My favorite Coney Island location is right around the corner right up the street man I live downtown so the downtown Coney Island.

ER: Is there anything else you want the world to know?

Phat Kat: That I am the man!

IT’S BLACK, BLACK LIKE THE BOTTOM OF COKE CANS

Black Milk, if you aren’t familiar with the name, then you are probably familiar with the music. If you are unfamiliar with his music, then you have been probably subdued by the unwarranted made for ring tone tracks, that record labels continuously push. Black Milk hailing from Murder Mitten, is a breath of fresh air, who cites J- Dilla, DJ Premier and Pete Rock as his favorite producers. A triple threat in every sense of the word having mastered his skills on the MIC, the boards and moving crowds; he is destined to be a household commodity much like the milk in your refrigerator. He shouldn’t be considered the second coming of Dilla but rather he is the first coming of Black, fated to change the game like he copped a page from the Jordan rules.

ER: How did the name come about, Black Milk?

Black Milk: The name didn’t really come from nowhere like it doesn’t have a deep meaning behind it. It was just something I came up with back in the day when I first started getting into like emceeing. There’s a lot of artists around the D that I don’t want to say have weird names but names that kind of call to attention and I was like I am gonna make me one of the same names. I want my name to stand out, I don’t know Black Milk just came together and I have kept it ever since.

ER: Speaking of the D, what’s your favorite Coney Island location?

Black Milk: My favorite Coney Island location is on Meyers and Pierson. There’s a Coney called Eagle Coney Island, that’s my favorite out of all of them.

ER: How did your relationship with Young RJ come about, eventually becoming B.R. Gunna?

Black Milk: That came through working with Slum, Slum Village you know what I am saying? I had started working with those guys, we that was the first actual group I had sold beats to when I first started getting into the producing game. Yeah men working with them on the Trinity album, you know I had a couple of beats on there, Young RJ he had a few beats on there to, just seeing him at the studio and kicking it with him building a relationship with him and after the Trinity album you know they had, we had a lot of producers that worked on the Trinity album that went off and did their own thing, so me and RJ were really the only cats left doing Slum Village production. So we was like we might as well make a beat duo and that’s how B.R. Gunna came about and we did the majority of the production on Detroit Deli and the last Slum Village record, the self tilted album.

ER: God bless the dead, what’s your fondest J-Dilla memory?

Black Milk: My fondest J-Dilla memory, damn man that’s kind of hard. I don’t know why that’s hard I guess I can say when I first got a chance to work with him you know what I am saying? And him spitting over one of my beats for the first time, it was for the Slum Village, Detroit Deli album, a song they called Reunion. Dilla had spit a verse on there and it was like he was already a big inspiration for what I was already doing so for him to get on the track and bless it and basically let me know that I am doing my thing; he was feeling what I was doing. That was big for me at the time man like fucking Dilla, he’s feeling one of my beats and spitting over it that was crazy for me at the time. After that he had got on a few more tracks that I did and plus I did a couple of collaborations with him, with me and him spitting on the same song, one song was called Door that was on my man Phat Kat’s album, so it was me Phat Kat and him. Another song was called Stupid that we did for Dirty District Vol. II; yeah man that was like my best memories men with Dilla

ER: What are your feelings about Illa-J?

Black Milk: Man Illa-J doing his thing you know what I am saying? I keep in contact with him every now and again, you know, I talk to him every now and again. He over there doing his thing with the beats trying to master his craft or whatnot and on the rhymes. He got some shit too you know what I am saying? Some of the songs that he let me hear are dope. That’s another guy that the people should definitely keep an eye on.

ER: Who came up with the concept for the “Sound the Alarm” video?

Black Milk: Oh the video! That was my man Anthony Gardner, the guy that actually directed the video. We did it a on green screen so I really can’t take no credit for none of that, all I had to do was stand there and move around and say the lyrics to the song.

ER: How do you approach beat making?

Black Milk: Most of the time I start off with going to buy the vinyl because most of my stuff is sample based; going to record stores just sitting there for a few hours listening to vinyl’s all day. Taking it back to the crib, listening to it at the crib and then chopping it up while I am in the lab you know what I am saying? Throw it into the MP make a beat.  It’s really not that different, I do the same thing everybody does you know what I am saying? It’s a about the technique not how I make the beat because everybody does the same process grab wax, add into the MPC, chop it up, chop some break beats and there go a beat. It’s about the technique and style that each producer has that separates you from other artists.

ER: What’s your take on mainstream radio?

Black Milk: Mainstream radio, I really don’t listen to the radio to tell you the truth just because I don’t think there’s enough variety for listeners to choose from. I think a lot of stuff on the radio is just one dimensional, one sound, everything sounds the same. So it’s like, you know everything is basically from one region, so it’s like, it’s kind of you know, it’s fucked up. A lot of cats like to blame DJs; you can’t really blame them because they really don’t have control over it; because it’s all about the big companies that are running everything. So there’s really nothing you can do about radio because they running the shit, so I can’t really listen to the radio like that.

ER: Which comes easier to you spitting or producing?

Black Milk: I would say rhyming is definitely easier than composing music. Rhyming words is not that hard I can write a rhyme in less than an hour most of the time, but composing music that could 15 minutes, it could take an hour sometimes, it could take up to a week to make sure your beat is right.

ER: What rappers outside of Detroit are you feeling right now?

Black Milk: Cat from NY named Skyzoo, that cat is dope you know what I am saying? I gave some beats to him; I think he is a dope emcee. My man, even though it’s going to sound like cats I am working with, but I actually do enjoy listening to these cats, Bishop Lamont out on the west coast off Aftermath records. He is a really dope emcee to me who else, who else? Sean Price, Sean Price is just nasty, that’s a no brainier. Who else am I listening to outside of the D? That’s all I can think of right now of course I like cats like Ghost, Nas and Jay.

ER: How did you and Bishop hook up?

Black Milk: I met Bishop at a Slum Village video shoot. He was cool with my manager and shit. I had just put out my project “Sound of The City”; that’s when I was just started pushing it, I had some CDs on me and I gave him one, we kicked for a little bit. He got back in contact with me a little bit after I left Cali and we just stayed in contact, he came up to the D one time, worked with him, then we came up with the Caltroit project.

ER: When is that coming out?

Black Milk: We trying to get it out during the last quarter of this year at east by September or November. It’s going to be real big; I didn’t expect it to get this big. We even sprinkled in cats from the east coast, even though it supposed to be like a Mid-West West coast thing. We got something from Talib, something from Pete Rock, something from Busta Rhymes. It’s going to be dope man, a real good look

ER: When’s that compilation album with you, Sean P and Guilty supposed to be coming out?

Black Milk: That won’t be probably coming out unfortunately until the first quarter of next year because I think they want to wait till after Guilty’s album drops.  Guilty’s album, his solo album will be dropping on 9/11.

Born And Raised in Pontiac

Despite having amassed a huge following as half of the duo Binary Star, cementing his name as an underground solo artist; I must admit that I was not aware of One Be Lo’s aka One Man Army rhyming exploits. That was before I heard him put the mental unto fellow Michigan native Black Milk’s instrumental, Take it there. From then on I was drawn to the MC hailing from Pontiac, whose lyrical prowess commands attention. I recently sent some questions via email to the unceasingly motivated emcee who is currently touring Europe to find out about the man behind that monster of an army.

ER: What it is One Be Lo, how are you?

One Be Lo: Busy, but I can’t complain.

ER: I hear you are on tour, obviously, if you weren’t I would probably be talking to you. So who are you on tour with?

One Be Lo: Right now and for the month of February I’m on tour with DJ Flip, from Ireland.

ER: Has the crowd audience been receptive to your music?

One Be Lo: I’m getting good responses everywhere we go.  It’s a good feeling when you go to a country you never been, and people there know the words to your songs already.

ER: I personally feel that European audiences are more appreciative of real hip hop; what is your take on the European scene?

One Be Lo: Europe is dope.  I wouldn’t necessarily say I get more love in Europe because I get mad love in the States as well.  I think anywhere real hip hop is, you will find real people who love and appreciate that shit.  Maybe heads say that because they don’t get as many American artists as we do so they appreciate it while they can I guess.  I could say the same thing for the smaller cities in the states like Missoula Montana or Iowa City.

ER: How would you describe your style, and who are your influences?

One Be Lo: It’s hard for me to describe myself, but I would say that my shit is real and anybody can relate to it.   I’m influenced by everybody I meet or read about.  Life in general.  I listened to so many artists over the years, they all played a part in me listening to hip hop, as far as what I do, I just do me.

ER: We know of the artists coming out of Detroit, Flint had the Dayton Family, what is the Pontiac hip hop scene like?

One Be Lo: I haven’t lived in Pontiac for almost 10 years, I couldn’t really tell you what the scene is like right now.  But me, Senim, Decompoze, Phrikshun and Kodac all come from there.

ER: The acronym for your newest release stands for Real Emcees Bring Intelligent Rhymes To Hip-Hop; what is your take on the current state of hip hop, and who would you consider real emcees under this premise?

One Be Lo: I don’t really listen to enough “current” hip hop to really say what the state of it is.  I spend more time listening to beats, so I can make my next installment.  A real emcee knows how to rock the MIC with skill, and do it consistently.

ER: I know you have had the opportunity to work with Black Milk, how come he was not featured on your album whether it was as an emcee or a producer?

One Be Lo: If you talking about The Rebirth, this record was a personal statement I had to make, a One Be Lo Rebirth.   All them collabs is coming next.

ER: Who are some of the artists that would you like to collaborate with?

Nas, Andre, Redman, Phonte and Black Thought, and the list goes on.

ER: If you could have five producers, dead or alive, handle the production on an album; who would they be?

DJ Premier, Black Milk, Just Blaze, Jake One, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

ER: I read somewhere that if you could theoretically be a concert promoter one of the artists you would invite was Fela. I happen to be Nigerian what do you know about the man who carries death in his pocket (Fela)?

One Be Lo: I don’t remember saying I would invite Fela, but I’m definitely a big fan.  His music and message is powerful to me, and the more I learned about his life only reminded me that I need to do something bigger than me, and even bigger than music.

ER: “Don’t Sleep” contains extracts of The Art of War, to what extent have been able to apply its principles to your life?

One Be Lo: After I read that book, a whole lotta things changed for me.  So many things in that book I apply to different aspects of my life and career.  It had to make the album, that’s how deep it is.

ER: What is your favorite Coney Island location?

I don’t fuck with that food no more.  I used to hit it up on the late night after shows but I can’t do it no more.


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