Group Home: Up Against The Wall

Lil Dap & Malachi explain losing Guru, their new dedication album to their late mentor, and the Biblical and apocalyptic references on their classic LP.

It’s hard to deny that some of the best beats of DJ Premier’s career are found on Livin' Proof, Group Home’s 1995 debut album. It’s also hard to deny that as far as 15-year old albums go, it has aged remarkably well, as evidenced by the use of tracks such as the outstanding "Superstar" in modern-day films, television and video games. With one listen, it becomes clear that there was something special going on in D&D Studios.

But nothing lasts forever, and as the years passed, the core members of the Gang Starr Foundation seemed to drift apart from one another. As Lil Dap and Melachi The Nutcracker continued to hone their craft with other producers, Jeru The Damaja embarked on his own course and Guru and Premier wound up separating from one another. Somewhere along the timeline of this musical evolution, things got cloudy and best friends apparently became strangers.

After Guru’s untimely passing this year, Solar’s bizarre, bitter online diatribe attacking DJ Premier and others attempted to compromise a legacy, and only added to the confusion. In an exclusive, HipHopDX caught up with Melachi the Nutcracker and Lil Dap in an attempt to set the record straight on the strange—and somewhat sad—legacy of a Hip-Hop powerhouse, as they ready their September 28 album, Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal.

HipHopDX: Melachi, what have you been up to? I heard a rumor you moved to Poland. Is that true?

Melachi The Nutcracker: Poland, nah. I’m in Pennsylvania. I live in a group home now. A real group home, out in Pennsylvania, like, out in the woods. I just spent eight months in jail because I was in a store and broke some stuff. But it’s cool though. My mom is out here. It’s cool.

DX: You know, I remember watching you on Rap City way back in the day and you talked about training to become a pro wrestler. Are you still doing that?

Melachi The Nutcracker: I was gonna do that. You know how it is when you watch dudes on TV and you say, “I wanna do that.” But those dudes are too big so I said forget that. [Laughs]

DX: So, what projects are you guys working on now?

Lil Dap: This project we got for Guru, the dedication project [Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal] on Babygrande Records.

DX: What are you contributing to it?

Lil Dap: We’re basically just trying to clear up all the nonsense that was out there and giving people our vision of our friend, how we know him. There were some good days and some good times and I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if it wasn’t for that.

DX: Now, you said "nonsense." Are you referring to Solar?

Lil Dap: We all hear this nonsense [about Guru] and I’m like, that ain’t the brother I knew. People got jobs, you know. This is the industry. They’ll love you and hate you. People are going to say good things and they’re going to say bad things. You take that good love to cover all the negativity and bring it to the light.

Melachi The Nutcracker: Solar didn’t care [for Guru]. He was just out for the money.

DX: So, let’s talk about something positive. I was listening to “Speak Ya Clout” earlier this morning. What was the vibe in the studio like when you guys recorded that record?

Lil Dap: That was crazy, yo. [Laughs] You made me laugh with that one. Flashback… I can go back to [that day].  God damn, yo. That was like…[Pauses]

When we was up in there, at first, they ain’t believe I could rhyme. I always kept it low. Guru always knew that I be spitting like that [with] Jeru [Da Damaja] on the low. Me and Guru used to always be putting it in with the lyrics and shit. When we got in the studio and did ["Speak Ya Clout"] it was crazy because everybody was in the studio waiting, putting their one’s and two’s together and Guru’s sitting there laughing because they ain’t know [I could rhyme]. Guru and [DJ] Premier put [the instrumental] up, loud, so it sounded real good, boom, and we did all that shit, chillin', just getting ready to give it to you guys. We lived in the studio back then.

DX: Who do you think had the best verse on that record, back then, coming out of the booth?

Lil Dap: As long as a nigga ridin’ that beat like water, shit, man, as long as my head knockin’, I ain’t really payin attention [to who’s best]. You got me listening by riding that wave. The next thing you know, I’m reciting what you just said, saying, “Damn, I like that.” I just go with the vibes—Guru did his thing, Jeru did his thing. I can’t say who was the best. I was just happy I was on the track.

DX: I want to keep up with this positive vibe. Livin' Proof is one of my favorite albums. It’s such a wonderful album—

Melachi The Nutcracker: I felt like I was gonna be the next Michael Jackson, like wow. It was so amazing.

Lil Dap: That’s my baby, kid. That’s my baby because we put a lot of work into that album. People didn’t really have too much faith in [how] me and Mel was trying to do our thing at the time, and everybody thought that we couldn’t put together a project at that time. I just started building with Premier because I got tired of waiting. Premier had a lot of things on his plate at the time so I would help out a little bit. I would get some beats, get some loops, get some records and put the ideas together like, “I can hear us doing this on this track…” [I’d then] bring the idea to Premier and Premier would be like, “Aiight,” and then bring it back to us like, “Bam,” and then we’d be like “oh shit.” Next thing you know we’re knocking it out. It got him more into the album; [it told him] that [we] were coming to the table with ideas and it was shocking. It made the process quicker and Premier put some of his other projects to the side [to work on ours].

DX: I think you just said something very interesting. It seems like you guys were very enthusiastic for this project and I think some of the best beats Premier ever made were on your album.  Do you think he saw your energy and had to bring it back to you?

Lil Dap: Oh yeah. We had to bring the energy and you have to bring the vibes to the brothers. Especially producers. That way, when they work with you, it flows like water.  That way it gets them to want to work with you. These vibes come naturally. On a bad day, I can [still] put a good track together. It’s about the passion. This is like our shrink. This is how we get our pain out. Fuck it. You have freedom of speech.

DX: You know, I’m glad you said that because one vibe off that album is about inspiring youth and inspiring change. Who’s idea was that?

Melachi The Nutcracker: I been through it all, you know. I knew it was rough and I made it. You could do it too, you know.

Lil Dap: That’s us. From being being around Guru and staying in our lane. The music we were putting out was about saving people’s lives. You gotta speak everybody’s pain, especially if you’re out in the streets walking with them. But at the same time, you just put that [pain] to the side when you’re making music [because] there’s gonna be people that judge and say that it’s wack but that’s all part of it. Sometimes we say our music is wack. You just gotta keep an open mind when it comes to the game. I just go with it freely.

DX: As we’re talking about vibes, one vibe I want to talk about is the “Superstar” intro where you talk about how "the world is about to end." Can you explain what you meant by that?

Lil Dap: [Pauses] We used to travel a lot with Guru and Premier and them niggas around the world. It was the signs of the time…the type of talk that you hear from your grandparents. It caught my ear just like Rap caught my ear.

DX: Another vibe off of Livin' Proof that I want to talk about is how you quoted The Bible a lot. But, at the same time, you didn’t tell us that you were quoting from The Bible and I thought that was a beautiful thing. Where did that come from?

Melachi The Nutcracker: A lot of that is just what I was feeling at that time.

Lil Dap: That’s from my grandmother. You know how it is in this Rap game; some of these old folks are scared of us because some of them just don’t understand. They’d be like, “Let me hear your music,” and I’d be like, “Nah, I don’t wanna let you.” [But I learned] that you gotta explain to older folks who don’t understand [the music]. I’d take things my grandmother taught me and put them in rhyme form to touch these kids just like [the older generation] touched us.  At the end of the day, I gotta answer for myself.

DX: Yesterday, I was on YouTube watching an old interview of you guys from Yo! MTV Raps and you talked about wanting to work with other producers. Now, some 15 years later, what have you learned from working with other producers and how has it affected your development as artists?

Lil Dap: I feel cool because I gave everybody a chance to work with me. I go overseas and I get people [Impersonating a European accent] going “Little Dap, please, will you rap on my beat?” I can’t do it for everybody but if their track touches my ear, I’ll give them all a chance. I keep my mind open.

Melachi The Nutcracker: As long as [producers] have fat beats, I’m good.

DX: It seems a lot of people who once worked with Premier...stopped, and I'm not even talking about the two of you. Why is that? Is there something about his personality?
 
Melachi The Nutcracker: When he was with Gang Starr, he made his best music. When he was with Guru, he made some nice music. I'm not gonna lie...it's not his personality; it's just the music.

DX: You hinted at Europe earlier. What’s so different about the European approach to Hip-Hop compared to the American approach?

Lil Dap: When Guru and them first took me there—God bless his soul—I was a little nervous because it was my first time leaving the country. We did shows all around Europe back then; we even went to Turkey. I didn’t even know they like [Hip Hop] out there and they know the lyrics! They don’t even speak English, but they’re singing along with your lyrics! It was just beautiful.

A lot of brothers don’t know you gotta pass the test in London. You got to. Back then if they didn’t like your show, they’d throw bottles on stage. That was the warning back then—I used to throw my mic down after I’d finish a set and people were like, “Please don’t do that in London because you might start a riot.” Sure enough, I almost did it, but the audience didn’t care because they really appreciated Hip Hop.

They still do graffiti, man. Breakdancing is like American Idol out there, man. They love us; they admire us. We gotta take care of them. At home, we’re spoiled. But over there, they appreciate us and we appreciate them. They really save their money to come see you and that’s real.

DX: I gotta shift the vibe a little bit and talk about Guru. When you got the news that he passed, how did it first hit you?

Lil Dap: It hit me hard. I was crying like a motherfucker and I normally don’t cry too much.

DX: I’m sorry to cut you off but I do want to go back to the Solar thing. Guru’s passing hit a lot of us like a ton of bricks because we didn’t see it coming. The Solar thing made things very, very strange…it struck me as inappropriate for him to write that venom, especially so soon after Guru’s passing. What was your first reaction when you first saw that stuff?

Lil Dap: It was all types of reactions because me and Melachi was the last ones to see him, and he looked out for us and gave us a little money and all that. He hugged me and Melachi real hard the last time we saw him. He and Solar were arguing…I don’t know [about what]. Mel was about to flip out so, I was like, let me get him out of here.

I just try to keep his memory alive. [Solar’s writings] ain’t nothing but negative energy. What you getting out of that? It would be a good book but the new generation doesn’t need to know what’s going on. Guru left a nice legacy: each one, teach one.

DX: Let’s take the pain of his passing and turn it into something positive. How has his passing inspired you not only as an artist but also in your everyday life?

Melachi The Nutcracker: It tells me you can’t take people you care about for granted.

Lil Dap: It just let me know that it could happen to any one of us. It was like losing a close friend. You just try to keep those memories alive, keep home alive. You gotta keep that peace in the air. Let’s keep our peace. We’re men first.

DX: Let’s get back to the project you’re working on now. What’s the vibe like in the studio as you work now?

Lil Dap: The vibe is like getting a brand new car. We have so much to say, so much to flow. You stick us in the studio for a couple months and what you’ll get is unbelievable.

DX: Are we gonna see another posse cut?

Lil Dap: Excuse me?

DX: Is there gonna be another posse cut, you know, a group collaboration?

Lil Dap: Yeah, yeah. Of course.  We’re keeping it street. You said, “posse cut.” Half of these kids don’t even know about that word, “posse.” [Laughs] You know what I mean, you’ll be like “Where your posse at?” And they be looking at you like, “What is that, a code?” [Laughs]

DX: Aw shit man, I’m feeling fucking old just by saying that word. [Laughs]

Lil Dap: I haven’t heard that word in a minute.  You made me think, like, “Yo, get the posse. Come on, where the posse? [Laughs]

DX: I knew I was in trouble. I’m gonna have to edit that out.

Lil Dap: [Laughing] Nah, keep that because that’s let’s them know where the posse at.

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38 Comments

  • DJ Lord Ron

    Peace 2 the homies, Dap & Mel. Album is available as of 2day. Cop that Group Home joint on your own accord. Good interview! www.grouphomelowbudget.biz (Official website)...more updates/info comin soon.

  • stAND alONE

    On some what if shit, it'd be bomb if Preme produced this new Group Home album being that its dedicated to Guru and all. Guess you just cant repeat history, but that shit sure would scratch a Hip Hop itch thats been killin me! Much success to Lil Dap and Melachi on this new one. Imma check for it.

  • ghrrr

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTpYW17IN3g

  • VITO DE ANGELO

    DOPE INTERVIEW BUT YO, NOT TALK ABOUT BRAINSICK MOB. C'MON NOW!? GOOD TO SEE THE OLDER GODS LAND A DEAL AND GET THEIR GUAP. LOOK OUT FOR LP

  • Articulate1

    Group Home's first album Living Proof had arguably the best beats of the best producer's career...do the knowledge. Dap and Mel were shitty rappers but it didnt matter...music is about vibes and emotion and these guys were real and relatable to the average person...not like today's generic cookie cutter thug fags. Good to see Dap and Mel pay homage to GURU the legend who put them on. I wish them and Jeru would mend fences with Preme and do a Gangstarr Foundation tribute album with those unreleased Guru accapellas.

  • slick homie

    " and he looked out for us gave us a little money and all that" R.I.P. Guru. Your rhymes literally raised me as a youth in the 90's. Thank You Support that new Group Home Album !!!!!!

  • BROOKLYN

    I LOVE THE NEW GROUP HOME THAT WHATUP"THAT REAL SHIT.........

  • ado_

    http://www.fucksolar.com/ RIP guru

  • bg

    lil dap and melachi made living prooof and no other mc's would have done shit better I hate all these internet faggots talking shit about classic shit that people grew up on thisa shit was perfect and positive yall a abunch of solar type pillow biters! group home and gangstarr 4 life!! your mom couldve sucked my dick better then you girl did last night

  • Casa Magna

    @ dude...go head brotha! I wish u the best!

  • Guz

    @Casa Magna...I sure as hell could make a better interview...but will your brain be able to keep up with it would be the final initial result...

  • djspontaneus

    i like d lil dap more than melachi and if it werent for premos beats group home would be nothing

  • Bauce

    And again don't get me wrong y'all I love this album. These were Primos best beats. Its just this album couldve been GOAT status with the right MC on it

  • Whiterthanmost

    Melachi made Big Shug look like the god mc.

  • Anonymous

    http://www.youtube.com/user/305ilovemia#p/u No Image No Gimmicks Just Banging Ass Music I Love M I A Music and Ent. Presents $WonDough$

  • problems/problema

    Living proof is a classic album..always will be..but no disrespect I used to wonder what other MC's what have done to those beats..Dap and Melachi were terrible...its good to see them grinding still and I hope they can attain more success..that intro for living proof is one of my favorite beats ever...

  • Garvin Inoa

    "Living Proof". One of the best yet.

  • Garvin Inoa

    I met Nutcracker in the past. Dude is a real nigga. Kinda slow in speech, I know you could tell with his answers on this interview. He lost a few marbles in his day, but a real nigga 4 sure.

  • BIG V.I.P. (VANDAVER INTERNATIONAL POSSE FLATBUSH,BROOKLYN.

    r.i.p to one of the most under rated mc's the east coast gave birth to. ''on the microphone you know that im one of the best yet some chumps aint paid all of thier debts yet. trying to be fly riding hi on a jet set wit juvinlie ryhmes makin fake ass death threats'' -you know my steez

  • Hannibal Cannibal

    I appreciate Melachi and Lil Dap's contribution to Hip Hop. Hip Hop was about young black males telling their story, and these two had a story to tell. The technicality and rhyme structure may have lacked at some times but it only added to the charm. the album was gritty. The same people talking about these guys couldn't flow are PRAISING dudes in this generation that can't put two words together.

  • gfsd

    Spit My Clout By $WonDough$ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtGeBJc_c30

  • --------------

    Everybody pay attention. This is the real shit right here. "Livin Proof" would destroy any album that was produced in the last 10 years in hip hop. This was one of the last great albums put out by hip hop. Stop complaining about Melachi, so what he only had a few verses but don't overdo it and act like the rhymes weren't that good, he is still better than the garbage today. Lil Dap ripped it on like every song. DJ Premier ridiculous gutter beats. This absolutetly fuckin destroys the clowns we had to put up with for the past 12 or so years.

    • 718rob

      For real. I believed these cats. I still do. Fuckin' Malachi's IN A GROUP HOME FOR A CRIME. I heard stories of Dap keeping Guru safe. I like Rick Ross and Jeezy, but I don't believe them.

  • A.S

    This is the 2nd time this week I've heard Livin' Proof called 'classic'. Dudes are quick to forget how awful Melachi's raps are. Now no direct offense intended if he's reading this, but damn, The Nutcracker's raps are awful.

    • Bauce

      Nah fuck that. what sets them apart from the non rappin niggas of today is that they were from the era of lyrical rap. Gucci and them are talentless faggots im part because of their deep southern upbringing and I hate to admit their horrible diction/slang makes the music more catchy. I'll never forgive Melachi for ruining that Group Home album. Dap was passable as a rapper but Melachi was laughably bad

    • Garvin Inoa

      Yeah, but he's still better than Gucci Mane and a host of others from today that you and many think are hot. Dude wasn't the nicest but he has a voice and knows how to flow on a classic Premo joint. "Born in the ghetto, is hard to survive". One of the most famous lines in Rap history. Don't front.

    • Bauce

      YES YES YES. Holy shit they were.

  • dsa

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r7v9707Jnc Nasty Boy by $WonDough$

  • 718rob

    Great interview. I think Group Home's second album was one of the biggest let-downs in Rap history. That said, Livin' Proof is one of the best albums of '95. I actually listen to it more than OB4CL. Comparing GH's first album to the second, dude has no right to say that about Premier's sound. Y'all needed Guru and Premier like a baby needs a diaper. I may support this, I miss reality rap.

    • Guz

      I totally agree with you...The interviewer should've asked "Why did DJ Premier say that Group Home left what fed them in a 2003 interview?" or "Will you guys ever work with DJ Premier again in the near future?" or "Have you guys slowly reunited with DJ Premier after Guru's passing?"... and Not "Why has everyone stopped working with DJ Premier?"...Sorry but that was a bullshit question to ask...DJ Premier has beats submitted and sent to Kanye West that have yet to be recorded which will be recorded possibly and DJ Premier submitted his 10th beat out to Busta Rhymes...Plus DJ Premier is on the new Fat Joe Darkside vol.1 album and DJ Premier is on the new 5 mic Bun B album "Trill O.G." and both albums are in stores now if you opened your fucking mind up and kept up with DJ Premier you would know that he's still got work going across the boards...and once again I believe this is DJ Premier's 3rd 5 mic album that he has been apart of producing on which shows that he's still got it and it never left him so next time ask a more better suited question when regarding his name...I think Melachi answered the question like that because he still has issues with Premo...He could've gave a better answer...

  • MalMoe

    Whoa! 2 Days in a row with the dope interviews? Yes. Keep them coming.

  • Bauce

    Livin Proof is too dope but Melachi The Nutcracker is just an awful rapper. He almost ruined that album

    • Guz

      @Casa Magna...I didn't say the interviewer did a bad job homie...he just shouldn;t have asked that funny question about Premo...that's the only question out this interview i had a disagreement with...don't be a smart ass...Plus Melachi had no right to shit on Premo side ways with that answer...Premo's sound has gotten him this far which has given him major credibility and legendary status along with it...Melachi is just a confused dude who has always been a side show in the very dark backgrounds of Gang Starr and he should know better than to say that it's Premo's sound that is the reason why people don't wanna mess with him which is not true...You have more of a variety of producers that are out today and trying to get on plus Premo is mad busy and has a hectic schedule and as a matter of fact he just gave Game a banger for his new R.E.D. album so Melachi can go back to the woods in Pennsylvania for all I care...and you put your money where your mouth is fam and because I liked the interview...I just didn't like that question that was asked...

    • Casa Magna

      @Guz...those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Put your money where your mouth is. Make a better interview. Post it right here.

    • Bauce

      Well that too but homie really doesn't know how to rap Go listen to "Up against the wall" or "suspended in time" it is LAUGHABLY bad. I always assumed dude was just a friend of Guru and primo and they just put him on

    • Guz

      After hearing that bullshit answer that Melachi just made in this interview about DJ Premier I can truly agree with you now...How the fuck is the music the reason why people stopped working with DJ Premier? That shit is absolutely false plus I didn't like that question...The interviewer should've asked "Why did DJ Premier say that Group Home left what fed them in a 2003 interview?" or "Will you guys ever work with DJ Premier again in the near future?" or "Have you guys slowly reunited with DJ Premier after Guru's passing?"... and Not "Why has everyone stopped working with DJ Premier?"...Sorry but that was a bullshit question to ask...DJ Premier has beats submitted and sent to Kanye West that have yet to be recorded which will be recorded possibly and DJ Premier submitted his 10th beat out to Busta Rhymes...Plus DJ Premier is on the new Fat Joe Darkside vol.1 album and DJ Premier is on the new 5 mic Bun B album "Trill O.G." and both albums are in stores now if you opened your fucking mind up and kept up with DJ Premier you would know that he's still got work going across the boards...and once again I believe this is DJ Premier's 3rd 5 mic album that he has been apart of producing on which shows that he's still got it and it never left him so next time ask I more better suited question when regarding his name...I think Melachi answered the question like that because he still has issues with Premo...He could've gave a better answer...