First and foremost, allow me to express my happiness in knowing that you’ll be making a full recovery after that terrifying fall in Denmark. You’re an absolute champion! Secondly, I can’t thank you enough for allowing a lifelong fan the opportunity to interview you. Amp, I would like to equally extend a massive thank you your way for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to speak with me. Let’s dive in:
TSS: “Help” exemplifies the mental debate that many of us encounter daily – what around us can be believed? The classical intro prepares us for an eye-opening scenario. From a musical standpoint, which artist(s)/track(s) do you feel are radiating a positive message for today’s youth?
D: that’s a tricky question. Personally, I don’t necessarily look for positive messages outright in my entertainment; I find it to be kinda boring a lot of the time. I don’t go out of my way to give any positive messages myself. I just say what’s real and let people take it for what it is.
I do think that people could gain from what I got to say, but only if they are open to it. At any rate it’s not there to beat you over the head, either.
If it helps people to get away from the stress of living and get some kinda joy outta it, that itself is positive to me. Some of the material may not be positive to some people but I guess that would mean that the material is not for them.
I watch battle rap day and night, they say pretty much anything with no restraints against opponents. Some probably find it highly offensive, but it doesn’t bother me a bit. I need that release because nothing in the entertainment industry is as raw as that. It’s all megablockbuster stuff that don’t speak to me. So that would be positive for me.
A: I definitely am feeling the overall message of the KOD album. J Cole makes it pretty obvious on some of the songs. I like that bc its no weird interpretations
TSS: I grew up playing THPS and Street Fighter, so to see your tracks still being used 17 years later speaks highly of your incomparable talents and the popularity of each series. What was your introduction to video games? When did you realize the necessary connection between your lyrical deliverance and various gaming series?
D: I always been into technology and games was part of that. A lot of the beginning technology of what is normal life now was being offered to the consumer in the ‘80s.
I always liked games, like board games stuff like that. But video games were like crazy, the way you could interact with the graphics. From that I got into computing, all of this was before junior high school. Luckily my parents worked pretty hard so I was able to get a computer of my own, an Apple //c I believe. Before they created the window format that bill gates took to use for PCs. It was all behind the scenes dos shit. If you didn’t know at least a little about how to really use a computer you couldn’t do shit.
I always been quick witted I was a gifted student. But also liked to get into shit. Or get around shit. Computing, video games, rhyming/ wordplay, all that gave my mind something to do instead of get in trouble. But all of this was new and not too many people I knew was really on it like that. Matter of fact, I was pretty much an outcast because not many could understand what was so great about hip hop or anime or computers or video games, but I knew they were cool cutting edge ideas.
If that answers your question…
A: I was a Torn and Galaga head. Music always stuck with me.
TSS: For those unfamiliar with your pairing, let’s educate them! How did you and AmpLive meet? How did that connection transform into Gate 13?
D: I’ve known amp for quite a while. Through touring, we’d see each other, kick it, nerd out over technology and music, the finer points. We get along pretty good.
I’ve done stuff for him here and there. He asked me to do a vocal for a song he was working on so I went ahead. Along with that, I started to explain to him my general aesthetic with art, which is minimalist pretty much. Doing more with less. Musically wanting to dial it back to the essence of what I think made hiphop great, but just update it a bit. I guess he felt me. I let him hear some shit I was developing and he suggested I let him mix it. Which I thought was odd. He must really like it to wanna mix it.
From there he started making beats and letting me hear, from there I just started recording demos to them and it kinda just materialized out of that. It wasn’t like ok time to make a record, all formal or business like. It was just natural.
A (On Meeting Del): I have been around Del for awhile. We usually would be talking about new equipment and music programs. Definitely back when I was part of the hip hop group Zion I, we would open for him.. We actually did a song with Del off our True & Livin album. Song turned out sick. I didn’t really work with Del by myself until he got on the Radiohead remix I did for their song “Video Tapes”. That’s when I knew inside we did good music together.
TSS: “Full blast, put Big Boi’s in their SpeakerBoxxx” You two stand alongside one of the greatest duos of all-time, so an ode to OutKast in “Get Some of Dis” is only appropriate. Which other acts have inspired you throughout your upbringing?
D: ha that’s funny, they were just in my mind at the time I was looking for a bar. But let’s see…
Suga Free, off top. He’s gotta be like my favorite artist and I wish he made more shit. I’m always trying to see if he drop anything. He just talk that shit, I understand that language. Again, it’s rare to hear that out here, it’s too real, too raw maybe.
Madlib. From hearing lootpack on the Liks lps to their own record, I just thought all of them were just crazy but particularly Madlib. Rapwise and with the beats, though when I got to talk to him he told me he was gonna fall back with the raps. I guess he thought he can’t keep up with like us or whoever. I damn near wanted to shake him, but like I said: I like minimalist shit. He wasn’t jumping all over the place with his rhymes but he be saying some shit, and he just a trip period. He’s one of a kind.
E40. He’s a original too. He got his own thing, that’s what hiphop is really about. Like Suga Free, he just speak in a language I get. But really is rare to hear. It’s game, but it’s good game, it can keep you from getting caught up out here in these streets, or anywhere really.
Lil’ B. We’re both Leo’s, first of all. Again, he talk that shit I can feel. And he try a lot of stuff, he don’t care what people think and I admire that. He’s a complex person too, you can’t pin him down one way or another. Some people think he ain’t hiphop but dude know more about hiphop than a lot of so called fans out there. Like he done did freestyles to obscure ass instrumentals that I know but I’m like damn he up on that?!? I also see a lot of potential with him, he done surprised me a lot of times.
That’s a few but all these artists I mentioned do the shit because that’s what they do, it ain’t for fame or to be rich.
A: Outkast, Black Flag, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Cure, Parliament, A Tribe Called Quest.
TSS: Your discography is arguably impeccable. From solo studio albums to mixtapes to a variety of releases alongside a multitude of artists, your musical persona is in constant representation. What is an aspect of this industry that you’d like to improve on to add to your accolades?
D: I’m just really designing what I myself would like to have available to me. No frills, no blockbuster million dollar producer shit. Just raw beats, crazy raps. Both just updated. Battlers are so far ahead with wordplay now they may as well be humor writers. So mainstream artists ain’t even close to giving me that feel. Also, I really would like people to start respecting these battlers music, because some of them got fire music too. It’s not just all about battling, their music is separate from battling. But it’s a myth being pushed in the industry that, hey these guys can’t rap to a beat, they can’t make songs. I think they just afraid because if they ever get a foot in it’s over. But they really the only ones visible that are keeping the regulations of this intact. Be you and be dope. It ain’t about getting paid, that’s nice but you do it anyway because you’re nice and you know you’re nice. It’s fun. So that whole feel I would like to really focus on. It’s extremely rare in this era because like always the industry been monopolized to the point where you can’t even play the game without having millions.
A: I definitely would like to work on the visual aspects of the industry some more. Whether it’s editing or directing.
TSS: Many artists are immediately identified by their unique styles, yet many others are hard to decipher as they are easily compared to one another. Your voice is always pinpointed and distinguished. How did you hone in on this definite utterance?
D: like I was saying up there, that’s just the rules. There was no way you would be accepted into the culture trying to bite someone else, they would clown you. A lot of times you had to be referenced or co signed by someone who was trusted when they saying you nice. It’s a street culture, so that was something to do that wasn’t destructive. And it gave you a little clout in the community. People began to recognize me for being dope, doper than others even. I just did what I wanted to do, without being corny. But groups like Ultramagnetic/ Kool Keith and DeLaSoul were instrumental in me having confidence in my own ideas being dope because they were similar in nature.
In the beginning when I was first learning though of course I was just mimicking to get the feel and the fundamentals down. But you get to a point where ok, that’s boring, you got your own ideas you wanna try.
The difference today is a lot of artists ain’t doing this because they think they’re nice. They doing it as a career choice, supposedly a very lax easy street career choice. So they do just enough to pass and they do what they have seen to generate the most money. Just like the top of the entertainment industries out here. They all focus on what’s popping, so they’re always late trying to catch up to trends. But culture creates these trends.
TSS:”Funkrolla 3.0″ is a brilliantly comedic approach towards today’s popularity of incomprehensible rappers. What would you like to see change about music’s current state?
D: I actually don’t have a problem with some of these so called mumble rappers, I can understand them. And some of it is entertaining. It has its place. You don’t necessarily wanna hear hella dense wordplay drunk in a club trying to pull a broad. You ain’t there to think too hard really.
Just don’t put them in the same category with us. That ain’t hiphop, it’s a derivative form of it, yes. But that’s it. They can’t compare with the creative talents that hip hoppers generate. So I think that needs to be made clear because the industry just like to call it all hiphop. That’s not true.
A: I would like more exposure and promotion to different types of messages.
TSS: Every element throughout the entire album seems to have been selected strategically and blends beautifully throughout its entirety. Your knowledge of each genre is thorough and proves your devotion to your craft. Is there a genre that you would like to study more/work with?
D: well, actually all of that is really all Black music and it’s all derived from the blues. Each generation just updated the feel until now we here with hiphop moving into whatever else. But funk is the center of it all cause if it ain’t got some kinda attitude or soul to it it’s just kinda bland to me. It’s like someone who lived a 1% life his whole life trying to make a rap record, what the hell is he gonna rap about? So you know
As far as other genres, to me it ain’t no genres, people just put they own twist on music. I guess if enough people are doing one sound it becomes a genre but to me either it’s good music or it ain’t. But nowadays I’m really focused on making music that relates to me first my community second. Then anybody who wanna climb aboard can if they want.
A: I definitely would like to do more work in the classical music genre.
TSS: For now, we’ll let Gate 13 breathe and embrace the proper recognition that it deserves. With that being said, can we expect more collaborations from you two in the future?
D: sure. I’m falling back from so much touring right now after this accident. It’s just really putting things in perspective. So I don’t plan to be back out in the field so to speak until I get a new act down. I’m not coming back hustling the same old act as before. But besides that, yeah, we already were working on music together, instrumental stuff as a unit. So I’m definitely looking forward to continuing that.
A: Yes, for sure!
TSS: As you look back on your everlasting legacy, what do you feel stands out the most?
D: that would be for y’all to say I guess. I just do it. And grateful that anyone cares to listen and support it even.
A: I think the fact we are still able to make music and release it in such a big way is cool.