Custom MadeSinister Six, Bluff, Element, Skandalous Scoobs and Aneek, or as they are collectively known, Custom Made, are a Left Coast hip-hop quintet initially formed back in 2003. Unfortunately, member Sinister Six was jailed just before the release of their first “professional” CD, L.A. State of Mind, but rather than let that major obstacle be a deterrent, Custom Made persevered and continued on. Their widely popular mixtape series, Street Cinema, soon followed, and in ’06, they followed that up with Sidewalk Mindtalk: The Best of the Custom Made Mixtapes, a sort of greatest hits collection, on indie powerhouse Babygrande Records.

Now whittled down to a trio, partly due to Six’s current incarceration status as well as Aneek’s deflection to the East Coast, Custom Made is finally unleashing their appropriately titled full-length offering, Original Dynasty. In 2006, you all dropped Sidewalk Mindtalk: The Best of the Custom Made Mixtapes, were you all surprised that it wasn’t a bigger success?

Element: No, because it was our first release, and it was just a compilation of all the greatest hits. So, it wasn’t an official debut album. It was basically for promo.

Scoobs: Not really, because we weren’t expecting Sidewalk … to move tremendous units. That was a mixtape that was really put out for our fans, and also to introduce us to people who weren’t familiar with the group. Sidewalk was really just a prelude to lead up to an official LP. We’ve moved over 100,000 mixtapes worldwide over the past six years, and Sidewalk was just a compilation of the best tracks from those mixtapes. Of course you want to move units, but we looked at that project as more of a promotional tool. Overall, it helped expose us to more people, and opened a lot of doors for us in general. Do you think it’s mainly the state of the industry that prevented it from doing better from a sales standpoint?

Scoobs: Well there were a couple mistakes and things I feel could have gone better from a promotional/marketing standpoint, but sh** happens. I think the video should have been promoted better. We basically filmed a video that Babygrande didn’t even push. Some of the budget could have been directed to more useful outlets, but it’s too late now. You just have to learn from your mistakes for the next time around. All the music on the project had previously been released on our mixtapes, so fans that already had the music probably had no desire to go and buy it again. Sidewalk was also heavily bootlegged, and that probably had to do with the fact that most of the music was already on the market. In the long run, it was a learning experience and it opened up many new doors and avenues for us. Well, your “official” full-length LP, Original Dynasty, just dropped. Tell me about it.

Element: We titled the record Original Dynasty, because we are the producers of the new foundation for the new generation.

Scoobs: This is the Original Dynasty. We kept this album all crew. Everyone was on the album; from the founding members to the extended fam. So, it was only right that we titled the record Original Dynasty. The only person that couldn’t make the record was Six, due to his incarceration. Is Original Dynasty a whole lot different from your previous mixtape projects?

Element: I think this differs from past releases because we have been growing and developing our style and redefining our techniques. We’ve been going through a lot of situations that have been giving us more confidence. This is a more updated and complete project.

Scoobs: I would have to say that Original Dynasty is our best release yet. This release shows a more mature side of the group. People are going to be able to see how much we’ve grown from our first release up to Original Dynasty. We’ve always been real personal with our music, but this is our most personal project to date. We put our lives on these tracks and it shows. We basically combined a lot of elements from our previous projects and worked them into this one. The production on this release is more soulful as well. We’re still bringing you that hardcore hip-hop we’re known for, but this album has more concepts and more storytelling. Overall, it’s a very well rounded album from the entire group. Describe for me the overall vibe of Original Dynasty.

Element: I would say no matter what genre of music you listen to, Custom Made is a group you could appreciate.

Scoobs: You can expect some of the realest hip-hop music currently being put out. It doesn’t get any realer and more authentic than this. The lyricism is top-notch, and the production is top-notch. As far as hip-hop is concerned, you won’t be disappointed. This is the Original Dynasty, so we decided to keep the guest appearances down and keep it all fam. You can expect an extremely solid album. Unlike most of these wack f***s out here, we actually know how to make albums. There is a difference between making an album and just making music. This album can stand the test of time. This isn’t some bullsh** project full of singles. This album has a specific feel, and is very emotional. One listen to this project and you’ll see what the hype is all about. With that being said, I guess it’s fair to say that you all feel most of what’s out there is, to use your term, “wack?”

Element: The current state of hip-hop can suck my d***. This sh** is wack! Nobody is doing hip-hop in the art form anymore. Creativity has been converted to finance because nobody wants to make music no more. Everybody wants to make music for money, which is understandable, but at the same time there is nothing enlightening about hip-hop anymore. There are no more Illmatics, Reasonable Doubts; no more 36 Chambers. So with that being said, hip-hop is f***ed up right now. The mainstream took over to the point where they brainwashed the people. I can’t even just blame it on the artists anymore. The consumers need to open up their mind and eyes. They’ve been dumbed down for so long, that when they hear some dope sh** it goes over their head.

Scoobs: F*** hip-hop! On the real, I don’t even like hip-hop anymore. The reason we make music the way we do is because we only listen to classic sh**. I keep up-to-date with the current releases, but most of this bullsh** is too garbage for me to really get into it like that. Nowadays everything is wack, from the mainstream to the underground. Hip-hop has become too universal for its’ own good. Nowadays with the internet, everyone feels they can be the next big sh**. Just because you have a computer, a microphone, and FruityLoops, that does not make you an MC. These kids don’t want to pay dues anymore. Everyone wants to be a celebrity. This would have to be the worst era of hip-hop to date. The music nowadays is extremely watered down. People can say I’m hating or talking sh**, but I don’t give a f***. If you think I’m a hater, then f*** you! Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of dope albums being put out and many extremely talented MCs. Much respect to everyone who is doing this sh** for real. At the end of the day, I don’t give a f*** what direction hip-hop is going in. It doesn’t affect the way I make my music. How did you all first come together, and eventually form Custom Made?

Scoobs: Well we’re all from different parts of L.A., so it’s really a coincidence that we even ended up all meeting. I guess it was meant to happen. We eventually all ended up going to the same high school, and that’s where we met. We were the illest MCs at our school during that time period, so just on the strength of us all having a mutual respect for each other as MCs, we decided to do the crew thing. For about a year and a half straight, we would cipher and battle each other for about 8 hours a day. We would be cutting out of school, just kicking it, blowing trees, and freestyling. Looking back now, that was basically our practice. It’s like when you play sports and you practice with your team so you can build that chemistry. That’s the reason our chemistry is so good. Where did your moniker, Custom Made, originate from?

Element: Custom Made comes from corners of the darkest alleys, to the old records that your parents used to listen to when you were kids. Custom Made music is life in general for the fact that we don’t abide to restrictions musically, therefore our music is universal. Anyone that understands good music will appreciate our music, even if they didn’t like it. Taking it even further back, when did hip-hop music become a passion for you? Element: I got interested in hip-hop around age 11. I was going through a lot of sh** — domestic violence, drugs, getting kicked out of schools — and hip-hop was the only thing I had. I utilized hip-hop to make creativity out of depression and aggression. When I moved to Los Angeles from Orange County, it all came into play because we all miraculously ended up in the same high school. Since then, it’s been history in the making. This is just the beginning. Lyrically your rhymes tend to be very personal. Do you all usually write individually or collectively?

Element: I would say we feed from each other, but most of our inspiration comes from us individually. We all lead different lifestyles, so our inspiration comes individually. We all bring something different from these lifestyles to the table that blends together. That’s where Custom Made comes from. Expound on that some more. What does each member actually bring to the Custom Made fold?

Scoobs: Well, the first thing is that everyone in The Made is a strong lyricist. We all have unique styles, and it’s almost hard to describe. You really have to listen to the music to see what I’m talking about. See, Custom Made isn’t one of those groups where everyone has the same style and you can’t tell the members apart. Custom Made is a unique fusion. We give you everything from the street sh**, to the conscious rap, to the boom-bap sh**. At what point did hip-hop really become your life’s work?

Scoobs: I knew I wanted to pursue hip-hop as a career since I was about 12 years old. That’s about the time I started taking the music serious. About 2 ½ years later, we had our first professional album out. We’re not playing around. We take this music sh** very seriously. This is not a joke.

Element: There wasn’t a point where we all decided. When we came together we had a natural chemistry, and we happened to all be going in the same direction. Since we were all going in the same direction we just worked together, and it’s always been professional because we knew what we wanted. It was just a matter of when we were actually going to get the recognition we deserved. And then, Babygrande Records finally took notice of you all?

Scoobs: Before signing to Babygrande, we had released about five mixtapes. Babygrande heard these mixtapes, and approached us about doing the deal. The rest is history.

Element: We were in the streets so much promoting and producing so much product, that Babygrande took heed to the power we had to offer. They eventually got at us about doing our first “official” worldwide project.