Back in the early to mid-90s, you used to bring Jay-Z on stage to rock when you were performing. How does it feel to see what he’s become?
I’m happy for him. I’ve always thought that dude was a good rapper and always wanted to see him achieve the best and he has.
If you have these tight ears that’s only trying to hear one thing, that’s where you’re gonna be stuck at.
He brought you out at the Barclays Center grand opening concert in September. It was a giving-back moment.
What's always amazed me is how you could rap circles around people, but then bust out dance moves and people had to respect it. You could just as easily do “Raw” or “Nuff Respect” as you could slow it down for “Smooth Operator.” How do you maintain that balance?
It’s all music. Marvin Gaye could go from “Got to Give It Up” to “Let’s Get it On,” James Brown could go from “The Big Payback” to “This is a Man’s World.” It’s all music; it’s about people respecting an art form. Once you appreciate an art form, you’re open to everything. If you have these tight ears that’s only trying to hear one thing, that’s where you’re gonna be stuck at. That goes for artists too—if you’re only gonna walk around stage with a mad screw face on, tryin’ to look tough, more than likely people will come to your show and say, “That was the worst fuckin’ performance I ever seen.” You have to take the time to really respect the art form, then you’ll have a strong fanbase for years upon years because they love what you’re putting out, they love your stage presence, they love what you’re about and stand for.
How does it feel to see your influence in hip-hop today?
When people say things and give props, I think it’s beautiful. It’s been a long time, and to see people still care and show love, that’s great. It’s the type of thing where I wish those type of influences could shower down on the next generation of artists. It’s beautiful to see how it affects your fan-base, but it needs to affect the new artists. I’m used to being respected for what I do, and I’ve watched as my peers—Dough E. Fresh, MC Lyte—do the same thing and I remember the ones before me—LL, Run–DMC—how it was for them. I think we were able to achieve what we achieved because we watched the generation before us. With this younger generation, I’m not sure that they really understand it. It don’t hurt me because I’m still working, but it hurts them because now an artist’s life span is like three months.
Younger artists and fans should always take the time to go back and learn the history. There are people with that level of appreciation, though.
The young generation today, they don’t really care. In their minds, it’s “Fuck that old nigga, he had his chance.” And then with the attention span, you’re really only focused on what’s hot as opposed to what you actually like. What you like is what people tell you is hot, not what you actually heard on your own.
If you could get a beat from someone and a feature to put a record out tomorrow, who would it be?
What might be interesting, that could really shake the game up, might be a beat from Kanye with LL on it.
Kanye might be open to it, and Jay would probably get in his ear about it too. You have a show at the Howard Theatre in D.C. on the 25th—can you even remember how many times you performed in D.C.?
I don’t know, a whole bunch of times, man. Back when we used to be at the Capital Centre with Rare Essence and Chuck Brown and E.U.—I’ve done a lot of shows in D.C., but I’ve never played the Howard Theatre before; this’ll be my first time.
They just re-opened it last April; it had been closed. They spent about $30 million to bring it back, but it looks great in there.
I’m looking forward to it. I’ve heard about it in the past so I’m definitely looking forward to it.
How do you feel about the Nets moving to Brooklyn?
That’s beautiful. I love when big things happen for Brooklyn. I used to love the Nets back when Jayson Williams was playing for them. I hope they get it together and are able to contend for a championship. Even if they don’t win, I’d love to see them in the playoffs and the finals.
Interview by Julian Kimble (@JRK316)