How Dark Lo and Havoc Made Their New Collab Album ‘Extreme Measures’

Philly rapper Dark Lo and legendary producer Havoc talk to us about linking up to craft a gritty, soulful 11-track project 'Extreme Measures.'

Dark Lo and Havoc

Photo by Shakka Ranx

Dark Lo and Havoc

Havoc became a rap icon as one half of Mobb Deep, the beloved rapper-producer duo. The legendary producer knows the ins and outs of collaborating on a project with an MC, and he knew exactly what he was doing when he sent Philadelphia rapper Dark Lo a beat (with a special flourish: a verse from himself). That track was “Mob Tales,” which ended up setting the tone for the three-week recording process of their collaborative album Extreme Measures, released today.  

Havoc’s famously gritty production spans from the soulfulness of the title track with Styles P to the sinister synths of the aptly-named “Captivating.” He crafted a cohesive soundscape for himself and Lo, a cult favorite who all fans of gritty street tales should get familiar with. The OBH artist and longtime friend of Ar-Ab has a knack for dishing non-sequitur observations and unfiltered anecdotes that weave into overarching, unfiltered portraits of the Philly streets. 

Lo has had a prolific year, with Extreme Measures being his third full-length release of 2021. But unfortunately, as he tells Complex, that work ethic stems from an impending seven-year prison sentence. In August, he was sentenced for allegedly threatening a witness in OBH’s federal drug conspiracy case. The judge allowed him to stay on house arrest until starting his sentence, which let him get his affairs in order and cook up some music to hold his fans over while he’s away. 

We spoke with Dark Lo and Havoc about Lo’s love for Mobb Deep, the legal system’s weaponization of rap lyrics against artists, Havoc’s future plans and willingness to do a Mobb Deep Verzuz, and more. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.

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Havoc, what made you decide to send the “Mob Tales” beat with the verse on it already?

Once I knew we had mutual peoples that do this project, I was amped, because I’m already a Dark Lo fan. So I’m like, “Oh shit, let me make sure I send something official off the top.” I had this joint that I just did, and I know Lo was on that Mobb shit like I’m on it, so that’s why I sent that one first. I just wanted to make an impact out the gate.

What Dark Lo song or album made you a fan?

Just watching his consistency in all the projects that he’s been putting out. I’m looking, like, “Dam, that’s the music from the same cloth that I fuck with.” That street gritty shit, and the consistency of his message. That shit goes a long way with me. 

Lo, how did it feel to be working with a legendary producer like Havoc?

Dark Lo:
I ain’t goin’ to lie, I put up a song one time, and I seen Hav like that shit. That shit was like everything. I was sending that to all my family, like, “Look, Hav just liked this joint.” Some people would say they’d dream to work with Hov, Dr. Dre, or whoever, but Mobb Deep was my dream. They’re like my idols, so to work with them was a real dream come true. I manifested it. Anybody will tell you, “Man, you’re working with your idols.” They hit me now, like, “Damn, you got an album coming out with Havoc? You used to really be bumping all the Mobb Deep shit.” They was my idols since “Shook Ones” and Juvenile Hell and all that. 

I know you’ve been doing collab albums for years now, did you feel like working with Havoc was a realistic goal?

Dark Lo:
It definitely was a goal, but realistically, like I told you, some people dream to work with Hov or Dr. Dre or whoever. This was like a dream of mine, so it was just a dream. I was trying to make it a goal, but it was basically just a dream. Like I told you, when I seen he liked my picture, that was like, “Hold up, damn Hav just liked my picture? This shit is coming together right now.” I manifested it, man. 

What was the recording process like for this album?

Well, Lo was in Philly. I’m out here in New York, and because of technology, we don’t really have to be in the same place at the same time, so it makes things more efficient and quicker. Even though being in the same room at one time, the vibe is a little bit better. But Lo is one of them people, and I’m one of those type of people, where we can do that. We can send the songs through the emails and vibe out and rock out because we’re on the same page. 

We were sending the songs back and forth, and Lo would be like, “I fuck with this one,” or “Nah, I don’t fuck with that one,” because I’m one of those type of people where I’m open to making sure that the artist gets what they want. I’m not the one that’s like, “Nah, nah, nah, you have to do it my way.” Either he fucked with it or he didn’t, but the ones that he fucked with, we made sure that Lo took them home. He did his thing over it, they sent it back to me, and I couldn’t even say nothing. It’s like, “Damn, this shit is crazy.” That’s the way we rocked on that, and then we were like, “Yo, you know what? Let’s do the video to one of the joints because the album is about to come out.” I pulled up on Lo, I went to Philly, and that’s when I met Lo for the first time, but you would’ve thought that we knew each other for years already the way we just interacted, right Lo?

Dark Lo: That’s right, exactly. I feel the same way. With technology, I lock in with Hav. He sends a little four or five-pack at a time. I pick two or three, call him, and say, “Listen, I sent that. What do you think?” So, like he said, it’s better for everybody to be in the room, but the technology nowadays is like we’re still all in the room. Get on FaceTime or whatever. It’s like everybody is still in the room. 

Dark Lo and Havoc

After getting the first track, how long did it take to knock out the project?

Dark Lo:
Man, the project probably took two weeks. Actually, I’d say three weeks, just to be fair. When I record, I record three or four songs at a time. So yeah, it took a couple of weeks. The beats were fire. The shit he was sending was different. I think almost every beat he sent, I used. There’s probably one or two I put to the side, but the rest of them were just like, “Yo, let’s get to it.”

There are two features on the album that I wanted to talk about, the first being “Extreme Measures” with Styles P. How did that come together?

Dark Lo: Me and Styles was doing some work, and that was one of the songs we did, but I’m like, “Nah, we’re going to send this joint to Hav, and we’re going to put the vocals on a Hav beat.” That’s how that came about. We sent the vocals to Hav, and he made sure everything was right and it sounded perfect.

So that was going to be on another one of your projects?

Dark Lo: Nah, that was just some shit that me and Styles was doing. We were just fucking with some shit. I don’t even know what I was going to do with it, actually. But when I hit Styles like, “Listen, I’m doing a project with Hav, we’re going to move this joint over to Hav’s album,” he was all with it, and everybody was all in. It blended real perfectly with the album.

How did “Make it Home” with Vado come about?

Dark Lo:
Again, that’s my guy. I just told him, “Listen, I need you on this track.” It was as easy as that. He sent the shit back the next day, so that wasn’t really about nothing. These are guys that I talk to here and there, Styles and Vado, so that wasn’t really about nothing. They were glad to be a part of the project. It was only a phone call.

You talked about recording several tracks a day. What’s the recording process like for you as a prolific artist who has multiple projects going on at once?

Dark Lo:
Nah, I’m just grateful. If you’re an up-and-coming artist, you can’t just be in the studio. I write mine on the spot. I got a studio in the house, so I can lock in and do five songs and be in the studio all night. But if you’re an up-and-coming artist, nine times out of 10, you probably can’t do that. You have to pre-write your shit, get in there, and get out. But personally, I write right there on the spot. If I’m in an outside studio, I’ve got everything pre-written, so I’m going in and out. I don’t got the luxury to just be in there for 12 hours. They want, like, $100 an hour in the studio, so I got a studio in my crib so I can do that shit all night if I want.

“My creative process and my organizing process are on point right now. My brain is sharp right now. It’s kind of sharper than it’s ever been, actually.” – Dark Lo

Do you work on multiple projects at once, or do you just lock in on one at a time?

Dark Lo:
No, I definitely work on multiple projects at once. That’s just how my brain works. I can multitask. I’m locked in with Hav, I’m locked in with Daringer, I’m locked in with these producers. I can multitask, man.

This is your last project before you start your sentence. What’s your mindset right now?

Dark Lo:
My mindset is perfectly clear. I’m free, my mind is not locked down. They got my body, but my mind is going to be free, and it’s definitely not the last project. I got a whole bunch of projects coming out when I’m gone away for a little bit. So I’m always strong. I’m 10 toes. Whatever they gon’ do to me, they gon’ do. Whatever gon’ happen, gon’ happen.

I know you’ve been putting out work all year. How has the music process been for you, knowing that you have a hard deadline to work with?

Dark Lo:
It helps my creative process, because I know that when I’m gone, it’s not like I’m going to be here and split something up at the last minute, or do this or do that, so everything has to be perfect. My creative process and my organizing process are on point right now. My brain is sharp right now. It’s kind of sharper than it’s ever been, actually.

What do you attribute that to?

Dark Lo:
Just like you said, I have to go in. I have a time I got to go in, so it ain’t time right now to just be going crazy thinking about things that you don’t have any control over. Right now, my brain is on go. My brain is so straight and clear right now. While I’m out here, I have to get my affairs in order, so that’s exactly what I mean when I say my brain is straight right now. I’m not getting side-tracked or stressing about what’s going on. Like I said, whatever gon’ happen is gon’ happen, so let the cards fall.

Do you feel like you’re on track to hit all your musical goals before going in?

Dark Lo:
I’ve definitely got some music coming out, but there are some other things that I wanted to do, but I got enough music to hold the streets down. The other things that I did want to do, I’mma come home and do it. I’m on house arrest also, so I can’t really move around like that. It kind of be messing up my moves that I want to make. Being that I’m on house arrest, I can’t really go here or go there, so that’s kind of holding me back a little bit, but I’ve got enough music that I’m satisfied with. It could have been more, but I’ve got enough that I’m satisfied with, and the people that I work with are satisfied with.

I saw on your Instagram that you have something else with V Don coming out. Can you speak on some other projects that will be coming down the pipeline?

Dark Lo:
Me and V Don got, like, two projects that’s going to be coming. Me and Daringer got a project that’s coming. Then I got three projects with all different types of producers that’s coming, so it’s going to be like I’m not even gone. It’s going to be like I’m still here.

Do you have an idea what you want the release schedule to look like?

Dark Lo:
Nah, I don’t have a release schedule for it, but it’s in the hands of some people musically that I trust. I know they’re going to do the right thing with it.

I read that the prosecutor referenced your “Allegations” song as evidence. Can you speak to the unfairness of the legal system stripping artists of their artistic license and criminalizing rap?

Dark Lo:
That’s just what they do right now. They do what the fuck they want, man. They’re referencing a song, and I was just saying who ratted on my man, and I got locked up for witness intimidation. They said, “Oh, he’s talking about whoever the rat is,” and they just brought that up. That shit is bogus anyway. The judge really wasn’t feeling that. He knew that was just rap. He wasn’t really feeling that, but you know the DA [District Attorney] is going to try and do whatever to paint a picture. They wanted to make examples of us anyway, so that’s how that went down. They gave me seven and a half. I was just looking at the news the other day, and this pedophile got two years probation. That shit don’t add up. 

Havoc: Crazy.

Dark Lo: We ain’t going to cry over spilled milk though.

I know that you’ve had health battles in the past. What have you and your team discussed with the system about getting healthcare and humane treatment while you’re inside?

Dark Lo:
They don’t really give a fuck about nobody in jail. You can try, but they don’t care about that. I got COVID when I was in there. I came out, went to court, came back in, and kept in the block where everybody got COVID. I didn’t have COVID, but they still put me in there because I went out the jail. Now I get on the block, and I get COVID. I didn’t get two weeks or nothing. They weren’t doing nothing at all. I had to call my lawyer like, “Yo, man, tell these motherfuckers I’m getting ready to die here.” I couldn’t die in there. Dudes banging on the glass tellin’ them to come get me, too, so they finally took me to the hospital, and that’s how I came home, on compassionate release. Judge said, “We going to send him home until the case is over,” that’s why I have to turn myself back in now.

Also, it’s like the CO [Correctional Officer], I talked to him, and he was like, “I don’t want to come near y’all. I don’t want to catch that shit.” So the CO is really not coming to the quarantine block like that. They might bring the food, and that’s it. They trying to get off that block. They not trying to catch that COVID shit, so that’s another thing. I don’t know man, it’s just weird.

Dark Lo and Havoc

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