For years, Lil Fame’s humility kept him away from the limelight. He has always handled much of the production for M.O.P., his duo with fellow Brownsville emcee Billy Danze, whenever legends like DJ Premier and D/R Period weren’t around to lend their own hardnosed backdrops. Still, the songs were credited as “M.O.P.” for production. But when the knock-heavy “Cold As Ice,” the follow up to M.O.P.’s breakthrough single “Ante Up,” came around, Danze and the group’s manager Laze E. Laze had had enough: it was time for Fame to receive some recognition. Fizzy Womack, a slightly changed old nickname from Fame’s youth, was resurrected—and listeners saw his talent, as he produced five of the album’s 19 cuts.
Since then, other East Coast legends such as AZ, Styles P and Cormega have recognized Fame’s penchant for gutter beats, enlisting his talents for their albums. This month, though, his production skills are on full display with Fizzyology, Fame’s new album with DJ Premier understudy Termanology. In an interview with HipHopDX, Lil Fame talks about working with someone other than his longtime partner in rhyme, lessons from his predecessors, and bringing the streets to the studio.
Lil Fame Discusses Fizzyology With Termanology
Lil Fame: It’s like a collaboration album, so I wouldn’t say it’s just me and another artist. We’re not a group or nothin’. … Nowadays, there’s not enough of the kind of music I grew up on, that golden era music, the shit our fans like. It’s important to stay consistent and keep putting out a lot of music, so every chance I get I put out music.
DX: What made you decide to work with Termanology?
Lil Fame: Basically, me making music isn’t about reaching out to people and shit like that, unless you work in my circle. … There were other artists I could work with, but [Termanology] was right there in the studio. It started out as his album, with me doing the production, and we had so much music, I decided to add a couple of my songs on there. We’d be in the studio, drinking and coming up with a lot of music.
I think Term is a dope emcee, and up and coming emcee. He comes from that lyrical point of view. When we’re making music, it takes me back to when I was younger, Hip Hop was more fun. Before things got so…my life without the problems. A lot of that comes out in my music. But Term is just lyrics and fun, just emceeing. He brings back that energy when Hip Hop was fun, and about lyrics. That’s what I get out the sessions. He brought that out of me, and he brought a good spirit in the studio. It was good to go back to that sound. … I want to rap, and not everything is a sad story. Everybody knows my steez and how I get down, but I just wanted to rap.
DX: You and Billy are about nine albums in, so I’m sure you guys have a formula when you go in the studio, so you already know where each other is at. How is it different working with Term?
Lil Fame: Making M.O.P. music is natural, but this isn’t an M.O.P. album. It’s showcasing Term as an emcee and me as a producer, I just did my one-two on it. Bottom line, whoever I’m in the studio with, I put my all into it. All the effort I can put in it, I try to do that. I don’t just go in the studio and rap peoples’ verses; I want to hear it mixed down, I want to hear the drops you’re doing. I want to be a part of the whole session. It isn’t just with Term; like any other artist I work with, I like to put all my intake.
As far as me and Billy Danze, we just vibe off each other. Our energy comes from each other. We’re not just a group, I knew this nigga my whole life. We grew up from kids together, so that’s just natural.
DX: What do you offer on a record like this, that you don’t get to offer on an M.O.P. album?
Lil Fame: It’s not that I don’t get to offer it. As far as me and Billy, as far as M.O.P., it’s a group. Nothing is one way or one-sided. We both have to agree on some shit. Sometimes I have a beat, and Billy says, “Yo, let’s do that shit.” In this case, it wasn’t that—Term came to me looking for beats, so I had more beats to offer. I get to show my talent as a producer.
DX: Some people have a specific song or two that converts them into becoming a fan. Do you have a song like that for Termanology, that made you really respect him?
Lil Fame: Like I told you, for me, it’s more about the vibe of the person. We can sit in a session, and drink and hang out. It’s about having social skills. Some mufuckas are just nerds, and you can’t even sit in a session with them. Their whole vibe is fucked up, and that’s no way to make music. Term’s got a good vibe, his people are my people, we’re all good in the studio, we hit the club up, tour together, whatever.
But Term’s first joint, “Watch How It Goes Down,” when he scratched my voice in from “World’s Famous.” I think he had something out before that and I wasn’t familiar with it. But that joint right there, the way he was going in on that song, I’m like, “Damn, this muh'fucka can rhyme.” It kind of reminded me of [Big] Pun or [Kool] G Rap’s flow. I’m a G Rap fan, Pun’s my nigga, and I just miss that essence of lyrics with every line. Every line, they said something. I think he deserves it. There are other people out there, but he’s one of the emcees to look at right now.
DX: A lot of people just associate M.O.P. with having a lot of energy, for songs like “Ante Up.” But this album has songs like “Family Ties” and “Lil Ghetto Boy.”
Lil Fame: Well if you’re familiar with M.O.P., we do songs like “Blood, Sweat And Tears,” and “Dead And Gone.” [Fizzyology] just a round album. You don’t want to be “blaow, blaow, blaow” every fucking song. One day you’re feeling this way, one day I’m in this mood, and one day I’m in this mood. We’re trying to show people that I’m not one-sided. I’m an artist. I don’t know if I’m your favorite artist, but I’m an artist. I’m an all around the way artist. That’s why you’ve got songs like “Family Ties” and “Little Ghetto Boy,” concept songs.
DX: As an artist, especially on a song on “Family Ties,” how tough was it for you to tap into those memories?
Lil Fame: It depends on the music. Sometimes the music can take you there, and it can be the vibe of the room. “You know, I’ve got something to say.” Sometimes, when I listen back to shit like that, I’m like, “Man, I’m not in the mood to hear that sad shit right now.” It depends on the vibe of that day.
…Term had the idea [for “Family Ties”], he had the idea and came down and played me his verse. For me, I go in there and match whatever right there. Sometimes I write, and sometimes I put it together like a puzzle, piece by piece. That was the vibe then. Matter of fact, I was doing the session, so that worked out perfect. Whatever song was before that, I was also recording.
Sometimes you have the songs where you’re just popping shit, and letting niggas know how you feel, and it’s easier to do the concept songs after you get all the anger out with your straightforward popping shit. I’m always going to pop shit on a song. Then you’ve got times where you have more you want to say in a concept story. That was easy for me. That day came down, I was working on some other shit, and the vibe was there for me. That was easy for me, so I laid that down quick.
Lil Fame Explains His "Fizzy Womack" Persona
DX: The early M.O.P. albums credited M.O.P. for the production of those songs, not you specifically. What was it like flying under the radar for so long?
Lil Fame: It’s cool, because we’re in this motherfucker together, so we’re rocking together. It was Billy and [Laze E. Laze's] idea to start putting “Fizzy Womack” to showcase me more as a producer. But a lot of those songs, sometimes Laze would come in and press and button and add some shit. It was the crew. But it was their idea. I never asked for my name to be put out there as just Fizzy Womack until after “Cold As Ice,” and shit like that. But that was more the executive part, which was handled by my man Laze.
DX: What made you not want the recognition?
Lil Fame: …It’s not that I didn’t want [recognition], but I don’t know…sometimes people take you for an asshole - deejay dudes or whatever. Freddie Foxxx gave me motivation. He played piano like a motherfucker, but you’d never know that this nigga Freddie Foxxx could play the piano. So when I see cats like that who have that talent, sometimes, you don’t want to be looked at as, “This motherfucker thinks he’s a producer.” [Laughs] That shit felt like clown shit. Until it became cool. It’s cool nowadays, but back in the days, niggas would laugh. “This nigga thinks he’s a fucking deejay!” They’d look at you like you were a chump or something. I was stuck in my years. I was still wilding or whatever, and I definitely didn’t want that look.
DX: Did that take getting used to? Does it feel awkward to see your name there?
Lil Fame: Fizzy Wo is the same shit as Fame. Around the way, they call me Slap. So niggas say, “What up Slilz?" "What up Fizzy?” I just threw the “Wo” on it for music shit. Nobody calls me Fame unless it’s somebody that knows me from music.
DX: You’ve worked with DJ Premier, Jaz-O, D/R Period. Did they help you learn how to make beats, or were you self-taught?
Lil Fame: I was self-taught from the most part, but I picked up a whole lot from D/R Period, and I was a DJ Premier fan, a Marley Marl fan, a Jaz-O fan. Everybody I had the honor to work with that was right there, there was just a vibe in that muh'fucka. I’m a music dude, so everything that has to do with a scratch or a beat, I was looking. Hell yeah I picked up a lot from D/R, Premier, Laze E. Laze, I picked up a lot. And I’m still learning.
DX: What kind of things did you pick up?
Lil Fame: I can’t say off-hand. They know how to make that shit knock. I ain’t the best mixer in the world, but I know how to make my shit sound right. I know what I want, I’ve got the ear for that. My man Laze taught me how to work the [Akai] MPC, and D/R and Premier showed me little tricks. I add all that shit to my shit. Do you make beats?
DX: Nah, I wish I did though. [Laughs]
Lil Fame: Man, making beats is just fun for me. When I’ve got to rhyme, before I go to the session, I’m thinking of shit to say. I’ve got to get in that zone, that shit’s like work. When you’re not in the mood to rhyme, that shit is fucking work. That shit is brain work, mental work, especially if you’re not in the mood. Like, “God damn, I don’t feel like doing this.” But you don’t want to waste no money either. So once I lay down that first line, I’ve got to finish the whole verse.
But making beats? That’s shit is like playing Nintendo or some shit. It’s like playing video games for me.
DX: Is it that much easier?
Lil Fame: It’s funner [sic]. It’s not work for me. Writing and putting songs together, that shit is work when you’re not in the mood. When you’re in the mood, that shit will come naturally. You’ll know, that shit will tell you, “Go do a song.” You sit down and jot it down, and you’re like, “I’m good.” That shit came from no work, but after seven of those, you’re like, “I don’t feel like doing that shit today.”
But making beats, I can do that shit anytime. I’m always in the mood for that. as long as I’m not upset or angry, I’m good.
Lil Fame Discusses M.O.P. Being More Than A Hardcore Hip Hop Group
DX: Longer, and perhaps better, than any other Rap group out there, between your production work and what M.O.P. makes, you seem to have a great talent of bringing the street to the studio. You can tell when an artist is just trying to make a street song, compared to you guys. It sounds like you literally make your songs in the street. How do you guys do that?
Lil Fame: I’m from Brownsville, Brooklyn. I get tired of telling fucking war stories and shit, but we come from shit. I don’t want to repeat the same thing, but that shit’s from my blood. It’s just natural, we do that with no effort. It’s not like we go in, like, “We’ve got to do this fucking street shit!” That shit is ignorant. It just comes out aggressive. Not every song is (makes signature M.O.P. raucus sounds). That’s not every song, you have your song where you just want to chill on this one. But to the average listener, we’re aggressive. That’s what we’re known for, and I ain’t mad at it. It comes from all the frustration coming up in that motherfucking Brownsville.
DX: If you could produce someone else’s album, who would you pick?
Lil Fame: Shit, you’ve got me right now, my nigga. I don’t know. I could tell you a lot of artists I like. I’m a G. Rap baby forever. I wouldn’t say I’d want to produce for G. Rap, because that’s a slap in the face, it’s kind of disrespectful. Just a dope-ass nigga. I don’t want to say none of my peers, or none of the niggas who raised me in this shit, with the music I grew up on. I don’t want to be like that. I can’t say. Most of my favorite artists are the artists before me.
DX: Why do you think that would be disrespectful?
Lil Fame: If I was asked to, it would be an honor. But as far as saying, “I’d like to produce an album,” who the fuck am I? It ain’t that serious. Like, “Slow down, lil nigga. You’re doing all right, but slow down.”
DX: It’s interesting that you say that, because a lot of people would probably see you the same way. Termanology may see you the same way.
Lil Fame: Yeah, that’s love though. That’s how it’s supposed to be. The ones before you. They used to call me Kool G. Slap in high school, that’s how much I kept his tape on rewind. I don’t forget none of that shit.
Koch Records put out a Rakim [The Archive: Live, Lost & Found] album, and they gave me the vocals to remix it. The song was called “I’m Back.” It was an honor to do that, but it wasn’t like, “I did a beat for Rakim!” Maybe personally, to myself, I’m like, “Oh shit, I did a joint for that nigga!” But I got a good response from it, and I’d like to do more like that.