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A Conversation With Rock (Of Heltah Skeltah)

When talking about group dynamics, people like to point towards Wu-Tang Clan as the quintessential example of a hip-hop dynasty;…

When talking about group dynamics, people like to point towards Wu-Tang Clan as the quintessential example of a hip-hop dynasty; however, that’s not entirely accurate. It’s impossible to have such a conversation and negate the influence of the Boot Camp Click. They were a super-group composed of inner groups: Black Moon, OGC, Smiff-N-Wessun, and one of my fave groups, Heltah Skeltah.

Heltah Skeltah, a duo composed of Rock and Ruck (Sean Price), came into notoriety when they dropped their classic debut Nocturnal. It contained a few of my fav tracks of the era, namely “Therapy” and “Operation Lockdown.” As a group, they released three albums total – the aforementioned, Magnum Force and D.I.R.T ( Da Incredible Rap Team) – amidst a sea of collaborations, turmoil, and a brief split.

A few weeks ago, the hip-hop world was rocked by the unexpected death of Sean Price. Word spread quickly, and outpouring of grief, and dazed memorial set timelines on fire. His influence, and genuine respect among his peers – and fans alike – was apparent.

I decided to reach out to Sean’s longtime partner in Rhyme to discuss his music, Heltah Skeltah, and the legacy Sean P leaves behind. 

Peep the interview below.

How did you get hip-hop?

Well, Beatboxing, and Roxanne Roxanne. Honestly, in its earlier days, when it was still a relatively small community, I was younger and wasn’t that into it; but, when I heard Roxanne Roxanne, that’s when I started writing. I wrote my first rap during that period.

How did you get into the game?

Well, I got lucky. I had friends that did a lot of the hard work – I just got to have fun. I just had to rap. Steele from Smiff N’ Wessun, he was the hardest worker. He used to hang out and do all types of fuckery with us on the street, and also went to school and worked a job to pay for studio time. So really, I got lucky… I came in the game on the strength of my mans and them.

[In hindsight, I wish I’d prodded a little more about his relationship with Tek and Steele. They were instrumental figures in the careers of not just Sean Price and Rock, but also the members of OGC. They all got their first taste of the industry on the back of their classic album “Dah Shinin”]

How had you initially met Sean Price?

I don’t know; our mothers knew each other. My earliest memory of him was at his 11th birthday party. It was his surprise birthday party, and he already had a job at that point.

At what stage did you decide to come together as a duo – at what stage did you decide to become Heltah Skeltah?

We agreed to that over the phone when I got locked up in 1992. But, I had already known for a while that was what I wanted to do. Once I heard son get busy, and I saw his abilities and all that [sic], I knew I wanted him to be my partner. It was just a matter of playing my cards right, feeling out the situation and making it happen.

What was the process of recording Nocturnal?

There were a lot of late nights. A lot of dudes, a lot of cigars, a lot of vegetables, and a lot of jokes. There were some women around – but not too many. There were also a lot of snacks around. Mad cookies and cakes, and a lot of greenery.

You guys appeared to break up after your second album, Magnum Force. What was the reason? Was there any animosity?

Nah, We didn’t break up. I just left Duck Down. We were just on two different pages at that particular point in time. Son was trying to do one thing, and I was attempting to do another; although, Heltah Skeltah was still intact. I was on his [Sean Price] first solo album. For all the time that I wasn’t with Duck Down and cats was saying that we had supposedly broken up… Yeah, I split with Duck Down, but I didn’t split with the Boot Camp. Duck Down just happens to be Dru Ha and Buckshot’s company, so it’s tricky. But it wasn’t that serious on a Heltah Skeltah level.

What made you guys get back together to do the D.I.R.T album?

We felt like it was time. It wasn’t that complicated. Everything was rapid-fire, and back to back. Ruck [Sean Price] dropped Monkey Bars; Smiff N Wessun dropped Reloaded, and Buckshot and 9th Wonder dropped Chemistry. Then we were out touring the Last Stand [a 2007 group album by Boot Camp Click]. It was in full swing. So while people were like “oh shit, Rock is back?” We were already albums deep. We had bullets in the chamber. We also recorded Casualties of War [another Boot Camp album released the same year] during that period. So at that point, all of the disagreements I’d had with Duck Down had been hashed out, and we were all in. By the time we did D.I.R.T, it was just a matter of asking “are you guys ready?”

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a bunch of shit. My solo album, for one. I’ve been working on it for a while now, but you know… Situations change, the sounds change, my ears change, and the message I may be trying to give the people may change. The album is in the process. Life happens though, and right now. I just lost the Yin to my Yang … My brother just died. So, there are changes that need to happen on my album now.

What are some of your fondest memories of Sean Price?

Just knowing him, just having the privilege to be chosen to be that nigga’s partner [sic] – that’s bigger than anything else. He was a one of a kind, unique soul. You don’t just find an energy like his anywhere. As unique as we all are as human beings, I mean, you may find somebody else at some point that reminds you of me, but you won’t find anyone that reminds you of him. He was one of one – and he chose me. I mean, I tricked him into accepting me, but he chose me!

What would you want the world to know about Sean Price?

Everything I just said. When I say he was special, I mean that. I want them to listen to his catalog – and his jokes, his vulgarities and all his slap the shit out you isms, and enjoy all of it. He epitomized the term not giving a fuck – and being yourself in the truest form. Always telling the truth is a part of being yourself, but with him, it was a bit more complicated. If he felt like lying to you, he would. He didn’t give a fuck about your rules. He would say what I was thinking. Shit that you were scared to say, he’d say – no problem.

On top of all that, he was a great father and a wonderful husband. He was proud to be married. He wasn’t one of these cats out here who’s married acting like they aren’t married – running around in videos and misleading the public. I mean, I get the look, but I also understand the subliminal messages we send to people through our music – and videos. We’re all programmed by what we see. I mean, there’s a nigga named Rambo in every hood [sic] … Where did we get that from? That’s the kind of stuff that came from our programming, things that were always pushed into our faces. Our whole lives. A vast majority of the punchlines that most rappers have were influenced by movies and TV.

We’re shaped by what we see.

The right wingers always want to come down on rappers for the messages we share, and the impact we have on the youth. I said it on wax: “We influence the kids – but who influences the rappers?” Biggie Smalls called himself Frank White. Where’d he get that from? They don’t want to talk about that.

When Biggie Small died, how old was he?

26, I believe. I remember being young and thinking he was a grown man… But in hindsight, he was young!

That’s exactly where I was going with this… I mean when you look back on it what, 15 years later, and you realize he was just 25–26… He was a fucking kid! All the hardest rappers out there were just kids. We were all young minds, still susceptible to peer pressure, and influence. If you’re in the NBA, those dudes protect your ass. Even if you’re in your 30’s, you still a system around designed to keep you straight. But not for us. We had to learn on our own. I have been around the world, and I learned: fuck all this imagery. That dude Sean Price took his wife everywhere – if he could take her, he took her. He rapped about her on half of his songs, and he’s got like 1000 songs. That type of thing speaks volumes. Very few of us out here are being our authentic selves.

And as well, the outpour of love and support he received worldwide speaks volumes to the impact he had on people’s lives.

Word. He was a magnetic dude. A fucking comedian. He’s legitimately one of the funniest people you’d ever meet – and he’d smack the shit out you. I just love that combination.

That’s an excellent combination.

That’s what I want the world to know about him… But really, the world probably already knows that. All they got to do is listen to one of his records. You’ll probably hear him mention his wife; you’ll probably hear him shout out his daughter; actually, you for sure will. He always mentions himself, and he named his daughter Shaun Price – so he legitimately says her name in every song. So her name will be immortalized. He did that for her, or maybe for him, but that’s that, he mentions her name in every song. You’ll hear everything I just said.

So in a sense, I could’ve just said, “play one of his records.” Because it’s all him – through and through. Even when he’s saying some weird shit that you know couldn’t have happened in real life, it’s still him.


Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
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#IndieSpotlight: Major D-Star Drops Off “Stack Pray & Stay Out The Way” Visual

Gotta love when an artist you like drop a project you’re feeling, and proceeds to give a visual identity to…

Gotta love when an artist you like drop a project you’re feeling, and proceeds to give a visual identity to the records you were feeling the most. That’s the case for AAHH mainstay Major D-Star; after releasing his long-awaited Trap Star  mixtape back in February, he is dropping off “Stack Pray & Stay Out The Way,” a song I personally described as an illustration of his immense focus on his “current hustle of choice, music.”

RECENT: Major D-Star Drops “Trap Star” Mixtape

The video, like his others, delivers on quality. Directed by Wally Woo, with a multitude of scenery interspersed around a loose storyline of himself working as a mechanic — which he playfully describes as his way of “stacking and staying out the way” in the into — it gives ample life to one of his project’s most infectious earworms. If you have yet to bump his full mixtape, go ahead and click here; either way, press play on this catchy little banger, below.

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#IndieSpotlight: Silas Luster’s “W.A.V.” Is A Slice Of Subversive Goodness

Provincetown, Massachusetts, MC Silas Luster released a brand new EP W.A.V. on March 29th that I’ve meant to share my…

Provincetown, Massachusetts, MC Silas Luster released a brand new EP W.A.V. on March 29th that I’ve meant to share my thoughts on, but to be honest, it was a dense listen. Not in an unapproachable way, mind you. Instead, it’s like an onion made of many, discussion worthy layers, painted atop lush soundscapes that are (at points) reminiscent of OG EL-P production from the early Def Juxx days.

RELEVANT: Getting To Know Provincetown Artist Silas Luster

 
The EP kicks off with “Sion,” which starts with his wordy flow over a head-nodding instrumental that switches up halfway through, into this bongo drum pattern over which he drops the strongest verse easily on the project; I’d love to see it live. “Diewittit” is another song that I found myself revisiting over and over. His cadence and rhyme schemes at times have this loose appeal that reminds me of the Freestyle Fellowship-esque aura that dominated college radio in the 90s.

 
He speaks a lot about his journey, and also a lot of spiritual topics — from the universe to putting meditation over medicine. It’s a lot to unpack, in a good way. You can hear the spoken word elements that seem to be the backbone of his bars — check the acapella interlude “What’s Love?” as a great example of what I mean.

The almost haunting chorus on “O.S.H.N” wasn’t necessarily jarring but did set the song apart as a black sheep of the EP. Not that it’s a bad song — it’s one of the strongest tracks — but, it’s just a different vibe that stuck out to me.

Overall, I dig this EP a lot. If you find yourself a little inundated with the sea of Lil rappers, and the endless sea of meh that often dominates the mainstream consciousness, Silas offers up a slice of subversive Hip Hop. It’s music crafted to both cathartically get things off of his chest and also get your thinking — depending on your aptitude on some of his topics, maybe even get you googling and reading shit.

He is currently touring throughout New England and the Tri-State. Check the schedule.

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#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don’t Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

Mark Spratley is a name in the industry you certainly should get acquainted with. A master of many, creating an…

Mark Spratley is a name in the industry you certainly should get acquainted with. A master of many, creating an entity in so many different lanes within the industry from management, PR, writing, events, curation and much more. Within five years of the industry, Sprat has accomplished what takes many 20-30 years. The young 27-year-old mogul is creating an empire before our eyes, and it only seems to be getting more and more impressive. Why wouldn’t it?! From helping to bring artists such as Lud Foe, DDG, DaBaby, Smooky Margielaa, Albee Al, Sicko Mobb, Nikko Lafre and many more to the limelight, his resume is vast.

Take a look at our most recent interview with the Starting Five CEO as we discuss music, how to get in the industry, his journey and much more.

Make sure to follow Sprat on Twitter and IG @SpratFool

You’ve been in the music industry for only five years and have already created something massive. How did you do it and what is planned for the future?

Countless hours, grind, plotting and studying. I’ve learned, and LVL’d UP. That’s it. I knew if I put in the work, I would find a way. I go 3000% for whatever I do or whoever I work with. Some people make the same moves and expect things to change. Some people aren’t willing to starve to binge forever. I’m out here mastering and succeeding at whatever I do. I make sure of it. I’ve got an insane ear for music, that’s been known. That’s why some of your favorite A&R’s would be asking me to pull up to their office on the regular.

I’m here to take over though. I’m going to continue to put people into position and maintain my brand. The empire is forming; the foundation has been laid and built.

We recently saw in another interview that you have a new platform on the way? What’re the details on that? (If you can give us any)

NEW DAY, NEW WAVE (LITERALLY). Zias (Popular youtube star &influencer) and I are partnering up on a new media outlet x platform for something special. We’re about to surpass the field quick. Two powerful influencers, we already got the traffic between both of us, both widely connected. Run it up!

Bunch of content on the way from both of us

If you could tell someone looking to get into the industry one piece of advice, what would it be?

GRIND SMART. Bring something to the table. Your passion and time can go a long way. Learn. Be willing to do what the next man is not.

Do you know how much free time and work I gave out to get to where I am now?! Now my time costs. Money isn’t everything, in the beginning, work for your opportunity. People worried about $20-$5000 (Short term money) when sometimes you just need to see the bigger picture.

You wouldn’t want everyone to bring ketchup to the BBQ; you need someone to bring the bun, the burger, the juice, the drink and everything else. Do you feel me?! Same goes for the industry or any job you do in life. Bring something different to the table and create a demand for it. That’s when you create stock for yourself (You create worth).

What were you doing before becoming a music mogul?

I was doing the school thing before I decided to leave for music full time. I was making money however I needed to.

What new artists do you have your eye on?

NEW SIGNINGS on the way. I’m getting back in my artist bag 3000%. Look out for all of that. I got to hold my list down for the time being.

How did you get into PR?

Fresh Moss and Neako had me on a lot of PR type of moves early. I always studied and noticed was going on in the game. Got tired of hitting up a lot of these foolish and corny “Bloggers” and people that were out and around at the time that felt entitled. A lot of them aren’t even around anymore haha. Many didn’t want to see someone else moving faster or making something out of all this. I decided to take everything into my own hands. From then on I turned this PR wave into something masterful. Countless artists have popped off since through my PR, their ability and me connecting these dots on the daily.

Top 5 modern artists most likely in your daily music mix?

It all depends on the day and mood

Lately… DaBaby, pre kai ro, Lil Baby, YNW Melly, Stunna 4 Vegas & DaiDough. I’ve been bumping FBG Duck heavily as of late; bro got energy.

A few artists are rising out of New Jersey that you’ve been alerting us about for over a year or 2. From Daidough to Coi Leray and many more. New Jersey has some talent for sure, how do you think your state will hold up in 2019?

New Jersey is UP right now, and it’s only going to get crazier. A lot of artists doing their thing. Daidough got home and been going stupid. Coi Leray has been spazzing since G.A.N.

Albee Al doing him as always, Tsu Surf home and just dropped a fire project, Arsonal on damn TV, Fatboy SSE is outta here and in his lane, Mir Fontane been putting in work. Jersey got a wide variety of sounds, every city/town is different, North and South Jersey completely different.

Beyond the artists, there are so many talented people coming up out of NJ and doing their thing in this music industry or elsewhere. It’s great to see people winning from your home state.

We remember you going crazy at SXSW with Smooky Margielaa a few years back when he was only an artist with a 10k following, how did you all meet?

Shit, my man Mike had told me I had to bump something while we were in LA. The track happened to be ‘Layed up,’ heard it and it was a wrap for me. His mans was GRAPE, we were all in LA, so we all linked up at the apartment, vibed and got to work immediately. Started putting in that push, went to SXSW and went full force after SXSW. Glad to see Smooky up right now.

We dove into your Twitter and did a little google search on you while doing some more research. We saw you got into it a little with Akademiks online last year? LOL, tell us more?

LMAO! If you did some research like you said I’m sure you know what was said. Jersey people certainly don’t tolerate bullshit. I called BS on something he spoke on. Jersey got behind it. That’s it.

What ever happened to Nikko Lafre?

Man, I can’t speak on another man that’s not with me. We had something crazy growing, that’s where I’m going to leave it.

Drew Love out here winning though with THEY, Lee Beats out here winning, Johnny Rain out here still doing his thing up.

#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

Thoughts on R Kelly latest situation and documentary?

SHEESH! I don’t want to believe it, but it’s their right before our eyes. It’s a shame because his music and voice are legendary. I feel as though 60 Minutes would have been a more credible platform to present this problem to the world instead of a Lifetime documentary. I’d like to hear R Kelly voice his defense for sure, but regardless his actions are sickening. We’ll see how it taints his legacy, it is 2019 so who knows.

2019 plans?

REGULATE

#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire #Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

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#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don’t Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

Mark Spratley is a name in the industry you certainly should get acquainted with. A master of many, creating an…

Mark Spratley is a name in the industry you certainly should get acquainted with. A master of many, creating an entity in so many different lanes within the industry from management, PR, writing, events, curation and much more. Within five years of the industry, Sprat has accomplished what takes many 20-30 years. The young 27-year-old mogul is creating an empire before our eyes, and it only seems to be getting more and more impressive. Why wouldn’t it?! From helping to bring artists such as Lud Foe, DDG, DaBaby, Smooky Margielaa, Albee Al, Sicko Mobb, Nikko Lafre and many more to the limelight, his resume is vast.

Take a look at our most recent interview with the Starting Five CEO as we discuss music, how to get in the industry, his journey and much more.

Make sure to follow Sprat on Twitter and IG @SpratFool

You’ve been in the music industry for only five years and have already created something massive. How did you do it and what is planned for the future?

Countless hours, grind, plotting and studying. I’ve learned, and LVL’d UP. That’s it. I knew if I put in the work, I would find a way. I go 3000% for whatever I do or whoever I work with. Some people make the same moves and expect things to change. Some people aren’t willing to starve to binge forever. I’m out here mastering and succeeding at whatever I do. I make sure of it. I’ve got an insane ear for music, that’s been known. That’s why some of your favorite A&R’s would be asking me to pull up to their office on the regular.

I’m here to take over though. I’m going to continue to put people into position and maintain my brand. The empire is forming; the foundation has been laid and built.

We recently saw in another interview that you have a new platform on the way? What’re the details on that? (If you can give us any)

NEW DAY, NEW WAVE (LITERALLY). Zias (Popular youtube star &influencer) and I are partnering up on a new media outlet x platform for something special. We’re about to surpass the field quick. Two powerful influencers, we already got the traffic between both of us, both widely connected. Run it up!

Bunch of content on the way from both of us

If you could tell someone looking to get into the industry one piece of advice, what would it be?

GRIND SMART. Bring something to the table. Your passion and time can go a long way. Learn. Be willing to do what the next man is not.

Do you know how much free time and work I gave out to get to where I am now?! Now my time costs. Money isn’t everything, in the beginning, work for your opportunity. People worried about $20-$5000 (Short term money) when sometimes you just need to see the bigger picture.

You wouldn’t want everyone to bring ketchup to the BBQ; you need someone to bring the bun, the burger, the juice, the drink and everything else. Do you feel me?! Same goes for the industry or any job you do in life. Bring something different to the table and create a demand for it. That’s when you create stock for yourself (You create worth).

What were you doing before becoming a music mogul?

I was doing the school thing before I decided to leave for music full time. I was making money however I needed to.

What new artists do you have your eye on?

NEW SIGNINGS on the way. I’m getting back in my artist bag 3000%. Look out for all of that. I got to hold my list down for the time being.

How did you get into PR?

Fresh Moss and Neako had me on a lot of PR type of moves early. I always studied and noticed was going on in the game. Got tired of hitting up a lot of these foolish and corny “Bloggers” and people that were out and around at the time that felt entitled. A lot of them aren’t even around anymore haha. Many didn’t want to see someone else moving faster or making something out of all this. I decided to take everything into my own hands. From then on I turned this PR wave into something masterful. Countless artists have popped off since through my PR, their ability and me connecting these dots on the daily.

Top 5 modern artists most likely in your daily music mix?

It all depends on the day and mood

Lately… DaBaby, pre kai ro, Lil Baby, YNW Melly, Stunna 4 Vegas & DaiDough. I’ve been bumping FBG Duck heavily as of late; bro got energy.

A few artists are rising out of New Jersey that you’ve been alerting us about for over a year or 2. From Daidough to Coi Leray and many more. New Jersey has some talent for sure, how do you think your state will hold up in 2019?

New Jersey is UP right now, and it’s only going to get crazier. A lot of artists doing their thing. Daidough got home and been going stupid. Coi Leray has been spazzing since G.A.N.

Albee Al doing him as always, Tsu Surf home and just dropped a fire project, Arsonal on damn TV, Fatboy SSE is outta here and in his lane, Mir Fontane been putting in work. Jersey got a wide variety of sounds, every city/town is different, North and South Jersey completely different.

Beyond the artists, there are so many talented people coming up out of NJ and doing their thing in this music industry or elsewhere. It’s great to see people winning from your home state.

We remember you going crazy at SXSW with Smooky Margielaa a few years back when he was only an artist with a 10k following, how did you all meet?

Shit, my man Mike had told me I had to bump something while we were in LA. The track happened to be ‘Layed up,’ heard it and it was a wrap for me. His mans was GRAPE, we were all in LA, so we all linked up at the apartment, vibed and got to work immediately. Started putting in that push, went to SXSW and went full force after SXSW. Glad to see Smooky up right now.

We dove into your Twitter and did a little google search on you while doing some more research. We saw you got into it a little with Akademiks online last year? LOL, tell us more?

LMAO! If you did some research like you said I’m sure you know what was said. Jersey people certainly don’t tolerate bullshit. I called BS on something he spoke on. Jersey got behind it. That’s it.

What ever happened to Nikko Lafre?

Man, I can’t speak on another man that’s not with me. We had something crazy growing, that’s where I’m going to leave it.

Drew Love out here winning though with THEY, Lee Beats out here winning, Johnny Rain out here still doing his thing up.

#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

Thoughts on R Kelly latest situation and documentary?

SHEESH! I don’t want to believe it, but it’s their right before our eyes. It’s a shame because his music and voice are legendary. I feel as though 60 Minutes would have been a more credible platform to present this problem to the world instead of a Lifetime documentary. I’d like to hear R Kelly voice his defense for sure, but regardless his actions are sickening. We’ll see how it taints his legacy, it is 2019 so who knows.

2019 plans?

REGULATE

#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire #Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

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Blank Face: Walking Through The Jungle

I spit gems through the mouth of gods – I'm so real... —Blank Face I consider myself to be tastemaker...

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