Hip-hop’s kaleidoscope of sound has been embellished by a hue of different personalities. Kurupt, an MC with eastern roots who has firmly established his presence in the west, is still contributing to the world of rap. His maturation as an MC is demonstrated throughout his discography. His past will always be associated with Death Row Records and the dire ramifications which stemmed from “beef.” But, accepting and honoring the past is essential to propelling oneself onward towards a better future.
Streetlights, Kurupt’s upcoming album, is the lyrical soundtrack to his life. In this concise, yet informative interview, Kurupt discusses everything from an MC cultivating his skills to the importance of his entourage.
BallerStatus.com: How do you think MCs should protect their talent and safeguard hip-hop’s integrity?
Kurupt: You really can’t once you show your skills. I mean, there’ll be those that can duplicate your style. Actually, it’s a compliment. It shows that you are influencing people, you know? But, then you got those who steal your style and they won’t give you the credit that they stole it, or that they used it. Those are a lot of people that you can consider to be biters. I’ll tell you that my whole formula of rhyme came from Rakim, and I developed my own style, you know what I mean? So, we all take pieces of each other in this rap game. Or we take pieces from artists that you look up to, or artist that you like when it comes to song making, or when it comes to rocking the mic, period. It’s all about the way you use it, as long as you give credit where credit is due, you know?
But, you know, try to be as original as you can. That’s the whole formula of the art form of what we call being an MC.
BallerStatus.com: I want to get into assistance versus reliance. Where do you draw the line between empowering someone to help them get that look and enabling them throughout their entire career?
Kurupt: It’s all the same. It’s really all the same game. Once you find something [that] you like in an artist that you want to deal with, you try to give them a helping hand in any way that you really can. Piggybacking and assisting [are] basically the same thing. Besides, when it comes to piggybacking, you’re actually hands-on and you’re taking them to every place that there is. When you’re just assisting, you’re showing them how to make music, you’re showing them things instead of taking them.
That’s the difference between assistance and piggybacking. With piggybacking, you’re hands-on with everything and every move that they’re making. You’re taking them to every plateau that they’re going, like Snoopy did with us, and Dr. Dre did with Snoop. And assisting is, you’ll find an artist you like and you’ll make songs with ’em. They’ll be learning off you. You’ll be showing them how to make songs, you’ll show them how to write they rhymes, and then they take they career in they own hands.
BallerStatus.com: As CEO of Penagon Entertainment, how much interaction do you have with your artists? Do you show them the ins-and-outs of the business side, or are you more concerned with their creative output?
Kurupt: I do both. The first thing that I do before anything is get their creative together, and the craft [before proceeding to the business side]. There’s no business without the craft; the craft is the money. Then after they get their craft right to a certain extent, then I’ll start giving them the game about the business part. You know, without the craft, you have no business with me. Let’s take it step by step, first let’s get your skills correct and get you ready to be something that people want to hear, and someone that people want to do business with. Then I’ll break down the business game to them and what things to look for as well as, importance of this and that, and we go from there. I like to get them seasoned in one place first, then I season them in others.
BallerStatus.com: Tell me a little bit about your upcoming album, Streetlights. It’s being released on 4/20?
Kurupt: The album is Streetlights, just know that!
BallerStatus.com: Are there any surprising collaborations or anything astounding on the album that we should look out for?
Kurupt: I kept it pretty much in-house, but I stepped it up a little bit, musically. Because I really had to concentrate on making music that showed a different side of Kurupt. I didn’t go to hardcore on hoes and bitches.
BallerStatus.com: (laughs) Oh my…
Kurupt: I made a lot of good songs like “I’m The Man,” and “Questions.” “Questions” is a real creative one right there. It really stands out on the album. “Face Down,” you know, I took it to the 808, you know what I mean? I’m drunk. It’s an elaborate story of being at the club, and how people are — how n****s be acting in the club when they’re all liquored up and going crazy in that motherf***er. I got one called “Streetlights”, which is the theme song for the album. It’s about the game and the Willie Lynch syndrome and how we’re born to go against each other — minorities are born to go against each other. They planted it in our heads that that’s how it’s supposed to be, and we just fall in line with it. So, I give them a lot of game.
I got a couple on there that are really inspirational for me. I got one with Xzibit [“In Gotti We Trust”] that’s pretty monstrous [that] shows them about these skills being an MC. Then with the Pete Rock record that he gave me, “Yessir”. It’s really letting everybody know that we’re still here [and] we’re still big in the game with Snoop. He’s still one of the biggest artists in this entire game, and he still does some of the biggest. Tha Dogg Pound, we’re still here, we’re still fly. We’re still sharp. We just older and more calculative, so it’s the soundtrack to my life, basically and things that I’ve seen and things that I see.