As a child, we just maintained. The first introduction [to hip-hop] had to be b-boying and graffiti. It was a plethora of hip-hop in L.
So it started with the dance. We all wanted to dance. We'd seen what was going on in New York, you know, Times Square. We already had a culture here in Los Angeles that was just brewing, so we were right behind them.
Because your father was an Olympic coach, LP, you moved around LA to Portland. What do you remember most about your life moving between these two places? We stayed all over L. I just remember the time growing up, just waking up in my dad's car, the station wagon, going into the colleges to take a shower, and then he would take us to school.
That was his life. We had to do what we had to do. Mom and dad got a divorce when I was five, so my dad pretty much held it down, and since then my mom went and followed her heart, doing what she felt was right. But what I remember most about my life, moving around in different spots, is going to different schools and waking up in different places. I remember waking up on some people's floor.
I remember the different neighbourhoods and the different people you meet and have to fight just to get respected. Back then I was eight, nine, ten. It was just a part of life, growing up in California. You met the Misfit Massive Crew in the mid '90s. Can you describe your work in that group? What were Misfit Massive Crew doing with hip-hop that you think was very different from what was going on in hip-hop at the time?
I met [producer] Jumbo in about '94, '95, when I first came to Portland. I'm also a producer — I've had two 12 inches out, which featured my crew. My first album Ill - Oet was the first time that everybody from Misfit Massive was on one album. We all did work on it — either rhyming or had sung or had something on it. And me not being from Portland, that's kinda big because Misfit Massive was here before I got here. With the music back LP, they were just keeping it raw.
So when I came to Portland and on Jumbo's production, what he making at that time was very, very strong and we connected immediately with our taste in music before I even heard any of his music. Just all conversation. They [Misfit Massive] were making music that I was feeling. They were just sounding very different, dirty raw And no diss to any of that, it just wasn't what I was doing.
I was doing the total opposite. If I was doing a type of sound, it would be L. West cCoast, Southern California style, 'cause that's what I grew up to, which is what you hear on "Alma Mater", my first 12 inch B-side record that Jumbo produced. Your debut album was Ill - Oetwhich was released in The album is noted for its mix of ruminative lyricism and dense, heavy beats that traded on a lot of the hip-hop aggression of the gangsta rap years.
How would you describe the work that went into this album? What were you trying to express with this album in its sound and themes? Ill-Oet was the album that was born out of a 12 inch, due to the fact that when the single "Volume" was released, it was a single deal or a one-off. It was a contract, a four-year contract. So we were going to drop a 12 inch.
It wasn't like someone had brought him a record already done — we actually made this record for Steve. Steve had already heard "Dirty Thangs" [a track eventually released on Ill-Oet ], which was released on One Drop Records and that's how he discovered me.
And so, once we found out that he wanted to do business, we went into the lab and cooked up "Volume". He liked "Volume" and we had the track "Slumfunk" and so we threw it on [the 12 inch] for the B-side joint. It did good, moved a lot of units, got a lot of licensing.
So then, we were, like, "We should do an EP". So we basically put together a mix of songs on a CD, sent it to Steve in the mail. He dug it and then we started working on Ill-Oetadded some more songs to it. And that's Ill-Oet.
The work that went into that album — I was going through a lot in I lost my father who raised me and I was in a contract, so I had to complete this project.
Everything was from the heart, just pure emotion, circumstances in my life — Album) that I was doing, that I've done, that I saw, that sort of nature. The idea behind the album was just soul music, good music, just classic I'm very proud of that record. That record has got a lot of special, special moments, energy and memories attached to it. You had a very unfortunate stretch where you did some time in prison. If you are up for discussing it, what do you recall of that experience?
As well, what new things did you learn from your time in prison that you would later funnel into your work as a music artist? Yeah, I ended up taking a dive — federal sentence, five years, 60 months plus one month.
Definitely an unfortunate time in my life. You get a true understanding of willpower that you didn't even know you had. I learned a lot in there and it was very, very hard in there. That time and that place made me into who I am today. It was a minor setback for a major comeback. I've obtained the discipline and the obedience that prison has taught me: how to turn feelings on and off and move like a robot and be a soldier 24 hours a day. That was something I had to experience and wake up to in the day for a lot of calendars.
There were things I learned in there. I learned how to maybe one day obtain being part of the one percent of black men out of the projects that made it to the one percent, which is the same goals that Puffy and Biggie and Russell Simmons and all of those good brothers have obtained themselves.
I learned how to do it and it doesn't have to be with music. I would love for music to be a part of it. I mean, it is my passion but there are other ways of actually getting into that bracket. So I learned a lot from a lot of dudes in there doing a lot of time.
Good people, just greed led them into a situation and they taught me how to do the business the right way and not be greedy.
It's the gift and the curse. I wrote about songs in prison. These songs are what will be coming out in the near future and what have already come out. Gangsta JazzVol. I taught myself how to play piano in prison, how to read music, and I studied music theory tediously. I taught myself, with the help of my good dude David out of DC.
Paid that man a bag of coffee a month. He taught me how to play the piano every weekend. Saturdays and Sundays, I had my lessons for an hour and a half. So now I'm producing, creating music. Once you learn theory and you learn scales and you know all of your notes and your time signatures, your melodies, your harmonies, your diminish of majors and minors, you can do a lot without even sampling. So, I'm going to definitely be stepping up into production.
I've already been into production, but now it's more real, now that I understand this actual theory of music and how to write. And that's just something on one end that's got to do with music, not to mention the marketing, the branding, and all of that which comes with the business of actually running a music business or a record label or a production company or apparel, or what have you, which is what I plan on getting into.
After that stretch of time, you then released Gangsta Jazzwhich was very different than your debut. It was less about the heavy beats Game Time - Libretto - Captain Crook Snatchin Crumbs And All (Vinyl more about the texture and melodicism of jazz and relied on the fluidity and improvisation of jazz. You got pretty heavy into jazz around this time. Can you discuss this work and how it got to be what it was? Also, you released Gangsta Jazz as a physical on cassette but not in any other physical format.
Why did you decide to release it on cassette? Gangsta JazzVol 2. I recorded it before I went into prison. It was an EP that was released on Liquid Beatdigital only. I stayed in contact with [Liquid Beat founder] Matt Nelkin pretty much my whole time I was in the can and, when I was in exile, he was pretty much telling me at the end of my sentence that he wanted to start picking beats for Gangsta Jazz, Vol 2.
When I got out, he started firing away with ideas, like the first two weeks I was out of prison. So we got right on it and I was more than happy to. I just had to find a way to get to the studio. The people at the halfway house, they didn't deny my work. I'm a professional artist, so they have to give me some time to go and create if it will bring in some money that they're gonna tax 25 percent of in the long run anyway — while you're in Federal Bureau of Prison's custody, that is.
Back then, you had to pay 25 percent of your income, which has to go to the halfway house. So yeah, a lot of those rhymes were my most recent work Game Time - Libretto - Captain Crook Snatchin Crumbs And All (Vinyl I was about to get released from prison.
The whole theme of Gangsta Jazz came from Matt who likes the golden age era hip-hop and he's a fan of CMW Compton's Most Wantedand he was saying "It would be dope if you did a whole project just over those type of samples, those type of feels and grooves and just keep it raw — with no drums, no nothing, just using the record, just looping. Greetings I am Libretto. Shines, Wolveryne and Sly da Brown Hornet. I am an artist, musician, creator, revolutionary activist, purist, father and businessman.
I was basically like a caretaker for my pops since he was diagnosed with kidney failure and was on dialysis so I had to go with him. Johns area. I didnt know he was a producer, emcee or nothing I just use to go in there and shop for music and we would chop it up about Hip Hop and I would end up the store for hours just bussing it up. Then one day he had asked me if I rhyme, and I told him yeah He invited me to his crib on 15th and Prescott at the time I spit for him and the rest is our-story!
I met Vursatyl a little later after that cant recall exactly when tho but I was inducted into the crew at that time. I feel there are a lot of followers here who just do cookie cutter music and not pushing the line style wise or content wise but they have a good work ethic.
Whereas in LA you got a lot of innovators of style and people who get out and grind, battle on street corners, bus stops and at shows in parking lots taking heads.
They also work hard too in the booth. For people who are unaware, you went to prison when your music career was just starting to flourish. What changed for you with regards to the music business in your time away? When I went in to do my bid, the industry was still hands on! You had CDs, vinyl and still got out on the road to pump your music and deliver a show with eloquence.
And you had to actually sell music! Now its strictly digital and the social media that controls the music business. Its all about likes, hits, and giving away free music.
Where do you stand on that, do you feel like your time away helped you be more focused or made things more of a challenge? My time in Federal Prison definitely helped me. It taught me discipline, obedience and gave me time on that bottom bunk to write and plan out my life.
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