There aren't many rap groups quite like BLESTeNATION. The intense trio made a name for themselves around NYC with their mixtape series Fuck A Mixtape and a slew of high-evergy live shows, which established their dark, rock-rooted sound and led to the group signing with Jimmy Iovine's Geffen Records in 2006. The group's DJ/producer Fafu had the arena-ready anthems, while balls-out MCs Werdplay and Various had the mic skills and outrageous personalities to go toe to toe with any rapper, but the deal still sadly stalled out. After navigating the waters of the Universal Music Group, Bleste has reemerged independently to release their long-awaited debut LP MBugout City. With the album hitting stores today, we spoke with the guys about their experiences on a major label and what we can expect from the LP. Check out the interview and the video for "We'll Die" below...
Complex: The debut album has been a long-time coming. How similar is the final product to the album you originally recorded when you were with Geffen?
Fafu: It's way better. This is pure Blestenation, uncut. Raw dog.
Various: I'd say its 47/78th's the same and 86 percent different.
Complex: Jimmy Iovine famously called you "the most promising act I've signed since Nine Inch Nails," and yet you guys ended up parting ways. What happened?
Various: We were basically like "Jimmy, take a hike. You obviously don't know shit about the music business." He was cool about it and I think we'll definitely find a job for him at some point.
Fafu: The last time I saw Jimmy he was sniffing circles of blow off of Nicole Scherzinger's tits. Not sure what's going on with him... Probably too much of that tittycoke. But honestly I can't blame Iovine for our shit at Geffen going south. The whole industry collapsed. Our people at the label got fired despite having a great track record there and the whole subsidiary of Geffen folded into Interscope. Our management was focused on other things at the time and we were just left out to dry. Fuck it. You see the same shit happen every day. I feel sorry for artists who are still getting suckered in to signing with majors. Their lawyer might get a nice check but their career is over.
Werdplay: As far as I'm concerned, we just got our foot in the door of what once was the best way to have your music released—through a major company with the money and power to promote it on as big a level as possible—at the worst time for the record industry, or any business for that matter. The industry is just barely holding on now with the few artists they have that have enough star power already to make these labels money. And they are probably making more money off of getting these people endorsement deals rather than selling the actual albums they release.
Complex: Would you sign with a major label again if you were given the chance? How has the independent route been in comparison?
Fafu: No, I wouldn't sign to a major. Can we name one hip-hop artist who has signed to a major since we did 5 years ago who's had any success? Nope. As far as comparing major to indie, indie labels buy you less lobster but they actually let you make the records you want to make the way you want to make them. At the end of the day, if an artist is not being truthful to themselves, the resulting product is gonna be some shit that people aren't really gonna want to listen to.
Werdplay: I really can't say yes or no to that question. I mean, who knows what we could be offered by a major in the future, but asking me right now? Hell nah, man. Subnoize is my new home and I have plans to help continue to build this label into a fucking independent musical powerhouse.
Various: I feel good where we are right now. I just want to make the music we want to make and not have to take input from anyone else. It feels good.
Complex: I remember on the Fuck A Mixtape series, you guys had some great joints where you flipped some very recognizable rock samples and made them your own. How much of an issue was clearing samples when it came time to make the album? Did you incorporate much live instrumentation into the mix?
Fafu: It's funny you should bring that up because when we were on Geffen we had our album finished and when it came time to deal with sample clearance it took a whole year to get answers back only to find out we couldn't afford the samples we wanted to use. Such a hassle. So we made this whole album with no samples. We do use some live instruments but it's not a different sound. It's still Bleste.
Werdplay: There's no samples on the record. I really just hope people don't think that's what BLESTeNATION does. Those mixtapes gave us the opportunity to grab the listeners ear with familiar riffs from songs they already liked. Our ultimate goal when doing that was to get them to listen to Vary and myself spit over Fafu-produced beats. The album is filled with live instruments. It's a huge and very musical record with a slew of talented musicians.
Various: I played triangle on three songs. I do that.
Complex: I know you guys are big on live performance. What's the difference between listening to MBugout City and experiencing a BLESTeNATION concert?
Fafu: It's like the difference between eating sushi and eating a great steak. You love them both it's just different. But I like wasabi on both. And Jack Daniels.
Werdplay: There's a huge difference in my opinion, but its not as if one is better than the other. I mean, when you listen to a song of ours on the album you are getting a fully-produced, mixed mastered version that contains vocals and whatnot that have been gone over probably a thousand times each to make sure that recording is as crisp as possible. You get a performance of that song in the form of those same three cats with that same formula used to initially record that song but we do it right there full throttle. The energy is always insane when we perform. There are a few real calm joints we try to keep that way even when we perform but it usually works out that even the songs where the vocals might be done with a bit less angst on the recording just come off super explosive in a performance. I think that ads a great experience to hearing that same song in a slightly different way.
Various: We've made a lot of music over the years. So you might get some songs from the album and some songs from the mixtape's and some new shit. Whatever we're doing we definitely try to bring a lot of energy to the stage.
Complex: Your music can be very dark. Do you get a lot of goth girl groupies at your shows?
Various: Yeah. We got those there...goth hoes there.
Fafu: I'm a married man, I don't fuck groupies. But we do get some interesting fans at the shows. We love our fans, they go through a lot of the same shit we go through. And we work through that together at our shows. It's like therapy.
Werdplay: I dunno, but I love me some weird chicks. Any girl that has a weird sense of style and is confident enough to come out the house looking wild—while still looking sexy as hell of course—is what I like. I don't like the word "groupie," though. I feel as though it throws all females out there at shows into one catagory. Some of those girls want to fuck, some just might wanna meet us and show respect. One might be there with the intention of trying to get wifed up or some shit. Are they all groupies? If a girl is a die hard Bleste fan blowing kisses and singing all my lyrics to me looking in my eyes while I'm on stage but when we are done she doesn't even try to meet us, is she a groupie? But then there's that girl that doesn't even know the name to one of our songs but she wants to fuck the whole band. Is she a groupie?
Fafu: Um, yes she is.
Complex: Lately, a lot of new rap acts like Yelawolf and B.o.B. have been mixing rock music influences with hip-hop lyrics. Are there any new artists you guys are interested in collaborating with?
Fafu: I haven't heard many new artists that I'm feeling on the hip-hop side. I'm not saying they're not out there, I've just been focusing on this so I don't know. Yelawolf is dope as hell though. I'm not trying to do a song with Ke$ha or anyone like that. I would want to do songs with Dead Weather and Major Lazer.
Werdplay: Personally my number one collaboration right now would be with Corey Taylor, who is the lead singer of the group Slipknot. I think him and that group are just technically and melodically genius. Oh, and Yelawolf is off the chain, by the way, since you mentioned him. That "Pop The Trunk" song is so dope.
Various: Tech n9ne, Raekwon, Ghostface, Kool g. Rap, Kool Keith...there's hundreds of artists I'd love to work with.
Complex: I noticed Werdplay making cameos in a few music videos, like Q-Tip's "Renaissance Rap." How did this come about? Any acting aspirations we should know about?
Werdplay: I got my first taste at being in a film by Rik Cordero putting me in a small part in his movie Inside A Change, which did extremely well at the HBO Latino Film Festival. Rik continued to put me in videos directly after that. I think I just had a look and style he could work with at that point in his directing career and I was more than happy to be on set with all the people from three21media. As far as more acting...yup! I actually star in an independant film called The Musick that is loosely based on the story of the myspace killer. I play the main character who kills his rivals and makes music about it as he goes about his killing spree. This film is due out in may. I feel extremely lucky to have been exposed to all of this acting stuff and I really enjoy learning as i go along. It's almost like when I first started making music. It's very exciting.
Complex: Limp Bizkit recently announced they are reuniting to work on their first album together in 10 years. Is the prospect of late '90s "rap-rock" returning to the mainstream a good thing or a bad thing?
Fafu: Probably both. People always ask us about those rap rock groups...that's not really what we do, but if that sound does come back, that's cool with me. I don't really listen to mainstream music though. Except for Nick Jonas. He's dope.
Werdplay: I dunno but yo, if you got the hookup to get me a 16 bar verse on that record let me know. I might be able to feed my son till he's 18 with the royalty check from that one. Should be huge. I expect a good record. Those guys always worked hard and made big things happen.
Various: I think it's cool. It don't really effect us either way, but I think people will always want to hear music that can't be pinned down to one genre. As long as it's quality music, I think people are gonna dig it, and that's what we always try to bring to the table.
WATCH: Blestenation "We'll Die" Music Video: