A staple in the Brooklyn underground scene since the mid-90s, Poison Pen is a vet. Starting in 1995 as a street tested battle champion, the rapper earned stripes for years before hanging up his battle mic for good around the year 2000.
With a solid following, Poison Pen worked with his Stronghold rap clique, as he made the transition from gifted freestyler to bonafide song crafter, but the task was a difficult one for him. “Yooo, I didn’t know how different it was. That sh** is totally different dog,” the rapper admits. “I felt like since I could say something fly and make people say ‘woah’ that I could say it on a record and that would sound hot, but most of the time, it didn’t (laughs). It was a world of difference. I had to like re-train myself to get into the mode of recording music.”
But as the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and after endless hours in the studio perfecting his song making skills, he finally got his technique down. From there, he worked endlessly at getting his Stronghold clique recognized, but now, over a decade later, it’s time for Poison Pen to finally look out for himself. It’s finally his time, and the first taste of the rapper, on the solo tip, is his recently released mixtape album, Pick Your Poison: The Mark Of The East, which gives the fans an intro to Pen before his official debut drops later this year.
During a phone conversation with Poison Pen, BallerStatus.com learned more about the rapper’s history, why he finally chose to drop an album after all these years and why he will not work with anyone that he doesn’t know. Do not get pricked by Poison Pen, the dosage may be lethal.
BallerStatus.com: You’ve been in the game for a minute, so why such the long wait for your first solo album?
Poison Pen: I make decent money off shows and tours. I don’t do this sh** just for a check. Prior to all this, I was concentrated with Stronghold, my group, making sure everything was straight with that. I was more concerned with everybody’s stuff, rather than myself. I actually just put out a mixtape to get the people into what I do. I’m patient though. I had situations from the year 2000 and on, like Duck Down and even Columbia, but they wanted me to do songs with Lil Flip. I was fine, I don’t do this with the sole intention to go out and get this money, I do it because I really love doing it. It don’t matter if I have five fans or 5,000 fans; it don’t matter. I just had to make sure the time was right for me to do it.
BallerStatus.com: So, why is the time right now?
Poison Pen: Well, you can only play the waiting game for so long. Honestly, this is really a mixtape album. The album album comes out later this year. This is the first solo project for me as far as a major release. This — Pick Your Poison: The Mark Of The East — is just press and promotion for the album that’s coming later (The Money Shot). This is to let people know how Pen gets down.
BallerStatus.com: According to your bio, you’ve been around since 1996, then you retired in 1999… from battling. Tell us a little about your decision to retire.
Poison Pen: Yea, I battled from like ’95 until like 2000. I just stopped it because I had nothing to prove no more. I was just concentrating, from that point, on making joints. We was making joints for my whole crew, making records, but battling was just a way of getting attention and getting recognized. After so long, I just didn’t see myself going anywhere else with the battle stuff, so it was time to call it quits. I battle people on street sh**, but on a public forum, I don’t see myself as that type of MC anymore.
BallerStatus.com: How was the transition from battling to getting in the studio and crafting songs?
Poison Pen: Yooo, I didn’t know how different it was. That sh** is totally different dog. I felt like since I could say something fly and make people say “woah” that I could say it on a record and that would sound hot, but most of the time, it didn’t (laughs). It was a world of different. I had to like re-train myself to get into the mode of recording music.
When I first started recording, I’d show my brother and be like, “This sh** hot, this sh** hot,” but the verses would be like 52 bars (laughs). He’d be like, “Dog, no hook?” I’d be like, “No, but that sh**’s hot.” It’s a seven minute song, so I had to go back to the drawing board and finally got a hold of what I was doing. From there on, sh** just started popping.
BallerStatus.com: Did the fans of your battle days dig the songs you first started making when you got it down?
Poison Pen: A lot of them took to it, you know what I’m saying? Honestly, the first songs they heard — they didn’t hear them on the radio — they heard them live, then it trickled to underground radio. The performance was tight, so they was like, “Oh ok, cool.” My performances were tight way before my songs was tight. I can rock a show to death. The show was hot! (laughs) You gotta find a transition between and it took a while to find that, but we good now.
BallerStatus.com: The album is titled, Pick Your Poison: Mark Of The East, so tell us more about the album.
Poison Pen: Well, it’s a mixtape album. It’s the sequel to the mixtape I dropped last year called Pick Your Poison, a prelude to the Money Shot album that will be out in December. But basically, this is a quick introduction to Pen. People can feel my energy, feel where I’m coming from and the honesty I put forth in my tracks. It’s rowdy man. I’m a rowdy dude; I like to get funky drunk and wild out with my peoples and that comes forth in my music. I got bars, I spit, but I’m not sitting here trying to beat you over the head with 1,000 metaphors or anything because most of that sh** is going to go over people’s heads. I learned from before, from my battling days. I want people to feel me as a person first.
On some songs, I talk about myself. On others, I’m a bully, slapping people around and on others, I’m just chilling.
BallerStatus.com: I see that it’s “Presented by Immortal Technique,” what’s his role in this mixtape album?
Poison Pen: That’s label trickery. Label tricks, them motherf***ers. Nah, but he’s on three songs. That’s my brother. Honestly, we present each other. I presented the last Stronghold album. I executive produced that, putting my money up for everybody. He’s just returning the favor. People that might not know who Poison Pen, might check it out because of Immortal Technique. I think that sh** is corny, honestly, and you can put that in print. That was f***ery, but at the same time, we did put the project together with each other, and we hosted it together. This is my project though. I guess it’s gonna put more eyes on it, so in that aspect, f*** it. It is what it is.
BallerStatus.com: You are quoted as saying you “don’t do Pro-Tools rap,” where you email a song to a rapper, then he emails it back with his verse. Why is that?
Poison Pen: Because that’s corny. If you can’t feel that n****’s vibe in the studio… first of all, I only do songs with people I know anyway, for the most part. I don’t reach out to this person because he’s hot or because this producer is hot. I don’t do that. If I don’t know you, I’m not reaching out to you dog. Any person you hear on my sh**, it’s people you really see me with. I be at they crib, I know they girl, they kid, whatever. When you see me with Sean Price, I be at his house. His wife be cooking fish, we be chilling. When you see me with Immortal Technique, you know that’s my brother. That’s why I say I’m not a Pro-tools rapper, because that sh** is not real to me. It might sound hot, I mean, it’s not all wack, but you can tell when someone is in the studio together vibing verses sending each other their vocals over the internet. It’s not authentic.
There’s an exception to every rule though. Like I got a joint with my boy Chino XL, and I couldn’t get out to Cali to get up with him, so he sent me his pre-recorded verse, but I know dude. It isn’t some dude I just hollered at because he was hot. On the whole though, I don’t really condone that. It’s not really authentic to me. I wanna sit down with you in the studio and sit down and make it happen. I wanna feel the track for real.
BallerStatus.com: What else do you have on your plate right now?
Poison Pen: Check out my Myspace for any information on me (Myspace.com/PoisonPen), but I’m all over the place.