You’ve heard about it in your favorite quarterly publication and hard hitting TV magazine show: brave news anchor journeys into the deep and dangerous abyss of ghetto America to get the real scoop! The crack rap epidemic! Full of apathetic tales of violence, greed, and destruction, these school yard death merchants boast thoughtlessly via rap without the hint of an angel’s influence to balance the devil whispering in their ear!!!
Yeah alright, we get it mainstream media. However, a group like the Clipse makes clear the dangers of such narrow labels. The VA duo put a huge dent in the stigmas hurled at coke rap, both as men and as emcees. It is their dark reality that inspires them and fuels their bravado, enabling the Clipse to effortlessly put wack rappers in their place while maintaining dignity and artistry.
Palms Out spoke with Malice, one half of the Clipse and 1/4 of the Re-Up Gang, about everything from diamond flooded Jesus pieces and video chicks to being a family man and fighting for the survival of hip-hop.
Palms Out: I grew up loving Rakim and lyrical hip-hop. Lately I feel that hip-hop has departed from lyricism as an emphasis. Why do you think that may be?
Malice: It could be a million reasons. I feel like the world we live in lieu of 9/11, the tsunami, just the world. People just want to be happy. Have a good time. Not be so serious. It might have something to do with it. I don’t know. But I am all up for change, ya know, it’s like the seasons, everything changes, nothing will stay the same. But I guess when they tell me they aren’t playing my record, they’re saying “Ya know, it’s hot” but they’re not playing due to the climate of music. You’re not playing my music due to climate of music? I don’t understand that. I don’t understand how you can forget about the fundamentals. Even if the fundamentals ain’t what’s poppin’, you can’t avoid the fundamentals — they are always necessary.
Palms Out: Recently in The New Yorker, there was an article about ya’ll and Jeezy and the whole “coke rap” label. Do you feel the label of “crack rap” or the fact that the topic dominates your subject matter boxes you in or pigeon holes you in terms of your listeners and critics?
Malice: I think the listeners that listen see the difference. It is the people who take things at face value and don’t scrape beneath the surface, they might categorize us with other “crack rap.” I also feel slighted when it’s labeled as “crack rap” because it gives the impression that it’s [just] “crack rap”… ya know, ignorant, it has no meat. That is not the case. [There] is definitely a lot of food for thought within these verses. I definitely feel slighted when you put me with other artists who are not doing the same thing we’re doing.
Palms Out: I was speaking to someone about labeling rappers. I was telling them I like “conscious” rap and I named some artists and ya’ll were one of them, and they stopped me and said “Nah, Clipse, they aren’t conscious rap.” I regarded you as part of that because of how I define conscious. How do you define a conscious rapper?
Malice: I’m with you on that. We are very conscious. We ain’t asleep, we’re up. We know what’s going on and we are trying to paint a picture for you. Granted we are not preaching to you or trying to make you change your way. We are just trying to lay out the good, the bad and everything in between of just life. We don’t just paint good pictures of us coming out on top as the victor, you lose sometimes too. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you break even. We just want to give the whole spectrum and there is a lot of consciousness within that.
Palms Out: It seems a lot of rappers get caught up in the surreal nature of being a rap star and they forget about what inspired them to do it; they forget about hip-hop. Do you feel rappers have a responsibility to hip-hop when they make it or is it all bets off and you just do you?
Malice: I think there is a responsibility. I am not trying to say to try to be a role model or anything like that. I can’t speak for other rappers, but I know for me I have responsibility to keep hip-hop alive. A lot of people saying hip-hop is dead and I totally understand that. But you know what, [as far as] the hip-hop that gave you goose bumps and who meant what they said and who was just hot… It’s not that kind of day anymore. And I don’t mean hip-hop is dead and the cats that are doing it now aren’t good, but it’s just that there is something missing from the hip-hop I know and love. It’s just missing and I don’t know who’s fault it is, but it’s just not there.
Palms Out: Hip-hop is at a strange age, a strange maturity where we are having the first generation of hip-hop adults. Do you feel there is generational disconnect that the kids don’t listen to anymore? Is it like where the grandfathers yelling on the stoop about “it used to be like this or that?”
Malice: Right, right. Well I’ll tell you I don’t want to be that dude. I never want to be the dude who says, “I remember when hip-hop was this” or “I remember when it was that.” You don’t want to be him, ya know what I’m saying? The cats coming up under you looking at you like “you old school cat, you don’t know nothing.” So rather than just say it like that I try to mesh it, I try to show them. Let me show the difference between ours and theirs and when you listen to ours and you listen to theirs don’t you see the difference? Me and Ab Liva of the Re-Up Gang we always talk about “what if we are the only ones left that even care about it? What if we’re in our own bubble and we haven’t woke up from it?” That is a scary reality, so with that being said, I don’t want to try to remind cats that weren’t there for it, cause after all they weren’t there for it! So how much should they really be interested in it?