There hasn’t been an album to make a definitive statement for NYC underground Hip Hop since ‘The Cold Vein’. How do you feel ‘Ironworld’ updates and reshapes that statement and mind state?
I just think the guy going out for a walk during the brutal winter with a head full of stress hasn’t had a soundtrack made for him in a long time. I think we have a lot of strip club anthems in rap but there’s no music for those who bundle up and face the city head-on. That’s why I call the songs on Ironworld “street anthems for the winter soldiers…” I think albums like Infamous, War Report or even a Cold Vein really detail the outside environment while I take it internally. My album is more about the toll it takes on you, almost a PTSD. New York is gentrified so a lot of the battles have been taken inside, underground or internally. If you’re looking for the gritty scenery in NYC you probably won’t see it. That’s why I don’t dwell too much on the city on this album. The natural progression for this type of Hip-Hop is to show how years of this type of struggle affects you. I think a lot of the underground emcees you hear nowadays, they don’t pass the smell test. They’re all hard kicks and snares and raspy voices talking tough but there’s nothing there. You see right through it. There are guys like KA, however, that show the natural progression of these New York Stories and it resonates. Hopefully, Ironworld adds to that.
How did you get such a dream team of guests? What was the genesis for this lineup?
I approached this album almost like a movie. Some say I have an A&R’s ear; I know who’ll sound good on what track. I wanted the emcees that featured to be street emcees but a little more left field, more cinematic. A few of the rappers have come through the same studio where I record, like Tragedy, Kool Keith, and Roc Marciano, so they became part of the conversation. The rest we sought them out. You mentioned the Cold Vein. I was listening to that album heavy while recording so I reached out to Cannibal Ox. Originally both Vast Aire and Vordul Mega were supposed to be on “Killa”, but something happened and Vordul couldn’t make it. That’s when we got at Mach Hommy. I look at recording music like a jazz artist would. You need a trumpet player so you get the best, whether he’s old school, new school, relevant or hasn’t worked in a while. We’re all session players. All that matters is the final product.
What do you think the old school can learn from the new school and vice versa?
The earth goes around the sun so sometimes you’re in the dark while someone else is in the light and vice versa. In other words, you can always learn from someone while you teach someone else. The new school can definitely teach the old guys about technology and social media. I think a lot of old school rappers aren’t seizing control of their legacy because they don’t know how to use the Internet effectively. A lot of these rappers are sitting on tons of material but are waiting for someone to sign them to release it rather than learning how to monetize and build an online fan base. The old guys can teach the youth about the business. It’s crazy how artists are falling for the same money pitfalls over and over. As far as the actual music is concerned, I actually like for it to be organic, everyone should be free to speak on their life as they see it. The old school shouldn’t teach the new school how to rap. Let it come from within. Just be responsible with what you spread.
What’s your favorite verse in Hip Hop history and why?
My favorite rap verse of all time is probably 2Pac’s last verse on ‘Me Against The World’. It’s such a motivational speech. He basically wrote a survival blueprint to follow. Every line of that verse is a code of conduct, a rule. It makes you pick your chin up and carry forward through tough times. Rap needs more wisdom like that. That album is definitely one of those that spawned Ironworld …That ‘Me Against The World’, ‘One Man Gang’ mentality…
What’s the meaning behind the name of your album?
‘Ironworld’ is another way of saying cold world but also adding in the entrapment of it all. The claustrophobia of not being able to evolve past your circumstance. Not only is the world cold and hard like iron, it closes in on you if you don’t fight it. If you look at the cover of the album, you’re climbing a fence and when you turn the cover, the guy’s running away. It’s like a steel cage match in wrestling. I live in a world of constant combat, constant competition. It’s the recurring theme of the album…Combat… and the album is that cage.
Thank you for your time and may you carry on making dope, fresh music…