Stories about Tupac Shakur always seek interest from Hip Hop fans young and old. Most in the industry can only claim position on the outer crust of Pac’s team during his Rap rule in the mid-‘90s and perhaps have stories of a chance meeting, the few hours they spent in the studio together or casually shooting the breeze with him.
Upon Tupac’s release from prison in late 1995, his support on the East Coast was scarce with only a few who supported him; among those were Boot Camp Clik.
“‘Pac felt like New York people wasn’t really fucking with him, and Tek and Steele was like, they had fucked with him,” Buckshot said. It would be the liner notes of Smif-N-Wessun’s debut album, Dah Shinin’ and subsequent shout outs of, “Keep Ya Head Up” that would ultimately unite the two parties. But unlike most instances involving those who would one day like to work with Tupac musically, ‘Pac was the one who initially reached out.
“‘Pac called the studio one night; we’re in the studio, doing the album with Heltah Skeltah,” Buckshot recalled. “He like, ‘Yo, I want you to come out, what you doing two days from now? I want you to come out here and do an album with me… I’m sitting here with Greg Nice right now, we eating chicken.’ And I was laughing and he said, ‘Fly out,’ and I said, ‘We there.’”
Footage was recently released showing the two camps meeting outside of the airport. Tupac met up with Boot Camp Clik personally, as he and the Outlawz greeted the New York super group upon exiting the limo sent for them.
October 19, 2013 also marks the twentieth anniversary of Black Moon’s legendary debut album Enta Da Stage. The Brooklyn trio celebrated at South By Southwest this year by putting on a historic anniversary show to commemorate the album’s 20-year mark.
“Enta Da Stage to me was changing the level of music, changing the tone of the music based off of ‘Who Got The Props’ and that excited me and I knew what exactly that was going to become, I felt it,” 5 ft. explained.
Minutes after they performed their historic set in Austin, Texas, the entire Black Moon crew recalled their favorite moments and songs from the landmark album, meeting Shakur and how the Duck Down name has been able to remain relevant for nearly two decades.
Black Moon Reflect On Enta Da Stage
HipHopDX: You guys rocked the stage tonight for the twentieth anniversary of Enta Da Stage. Legendary show, it was crazy. Do you feel like it’s been 20 years?
Buckshot: It feels like it, but it don’t. I told somebody else, it kind of feel like it do but it don’t. I’m saying because time be flying by so fast, but you can see all the people and progress that was made and people that’s not here and people that are still here. So you kind of get a sense of where time is at with that, but other than that it does seem like, “Wow 20 years, that fast?” ‘Cause I know what 20 years mean, that’s two generations…you know?
DX: Right, the kids nowadays, their generation of Hip Hop before them isn’t you guys or the ‘90s, it’s like Dipset.
Buckshot: That’s right.
DX: Not to say that people forgot about your generation…
Buckshot: Nah, it’s called the measure of the human cycle. And I told somebody before, I was telling [5 ft] this, like, the way we see it is Hip Hop is like a house. When you first come into the house, the first rooms is the all blossom room of acceptance because if you put in that work, you’ll really get there. Everybody show you a lot of love, but you’re supposed to move from that room to the next room. Why? Because somebody else going to come into the house, and it’s their time to get into the room. So as long as you respect the house, you’ll always have a place. When you keep trying to go back into the room you crowd everybody up. You’re not doing the house justice; you’re being greedy. So one thing about us is, we’ve always had that mind frame. It’s all about yesterday, today and tomorrow.
DX: You said that on stage, and you also said, “I respect Rap, and I respect Hip Hop,” and each person does their own thing with it.
Buckshot: Exactly and saying, “You know what? Respect to both,” ‘cause it’s so natural for us to make. We want to avoid boring content. What’s boring content? Everybody saying the same thing–what they don’t like, what they do like, but they all find the same things to say what they don’t like because it’s popular. “I don’t like the new stuff. I don’t like that old stuff. I’m into the new stuff…I don’t like those people.” But because of new technology, I just saw “Batman” from 1949. I wasn’t around, but now I’m a fan of “Batman” from 1949, and I’m watching it. That’s how the kids of today are. They get a chance to go on the Internet and look at a Black Moon that wasn’t around today but might’ve made music that was good years ago. And now it’s available to them today, but they became a fan of Black Moon today and that’s the beauty of the way things have changed.
DX: How did you all meet? How did Black Moon come together originally?
5 ft: We went to school together. Me and Evil Dee met at Bushwick High School. And during the period of going to Bushwick High School, it was in the center of Brownsville, Brooklyn and that’s where me and Buck met. Those were the early days. I seen him. I be going to these competitions, and we had linked up from it. And the rest is history, Black Moon.
DX: What year was this? Was it way before you started doing music together?
DJ Evil Dee: ‘87? ‘88?
Buckshot: Um… It would be around ‘90, ’89…and we put out the records in ’92, ’93. So we had a period where we just went hard. We was in parks, did shows from Parks Apartments. We was doing college radio, and when we got to college we was—we made it to the big top for us. You know it was like we got real microphones [laughs]. We’re at college radio; we made it. We were going hard ever since from that time in the late ‘80s.
5 ft: We had a great experience…great experience. We were on our own, independent. We had a great experience.
Buckshot Responds To “Backpack Rap” Label
DX: And speaking of being independent, you were the originators of not only the underground but Backpack Rap.
Buckshot: I love that, thank you.
DX: When did you figure out that this was backpack and/or underground and this was mainstream? Many people consider The Chronic the time when it was split up but when was that time for you?
Buckshot: See, those records was all good. Back then commercial to us just meant to sell yourself short. That’s all commercial meant. Some guy would say, “Hey, I have a radio show, and I like your style. But I want you to put on a pink wig, a purple nose and an orange suit. Wave your hands around, and I’ll make you big.” So to me, whenever you was a sellout, that was kind of where it came from. So we just represented. We went to a lot of labels, we went to a lot of places, and they said that the vibe was if you could curb your style and be like this then we’d give you a shot. So we’d always say, “Nah man, this is who we are this is who we do.” We stuck to that, and we finally made it with that. That was always our thing, and there was a lot of people that we found out that felt the same way. We didn’t really know that, that wasn’t a thing. We weren’t doing it because of that, we were doing it because it was true to us. Then we found out that the rest of the world does feel that way, and that’s what made it a movement—because the rest of the world felt it organically. You couldn’t pay for that, and that’s what made it different.
DX: You were an intern at a label as well, did that have any affect on how you saw things?
Buckshot: A lot, ‘cause me and—5 ft said it earlier…we was talking earlier and when we first started out Black Moon—which you’ll see. I’ve got pictures of, I got the actual sweater, “Black Moon on the Up Rise” was the first tier. That was the first thing we started, and we took our show money and we said, “Let’s get some sweaters made with our names on it.” So that was like our next level of promotion for us and doing it organically ourselves. From there it really sparked that entrepreneurial mind frame like, “Wow. Let me follow the greats. Let me follow Adaryl Strave. Let me follow Phil Nelson, Hank Shocklee and Tim Olphie.” I follow them, I learn from them and then once we got a deal, I put it into effect.
DX: What were some of those best memories in making Enta Da Stage?
Buckshot: For me personally, cause everyone is going to give their individual [opinion], for me personally finding the flow. Finding the flow; that was the moment the light came on for me. “Who Got Da Props” was the single, and “Who Got Da Props” was made with the format of learning what a structural bar is, “Put up, what up, bo, bo, bo! / Suckers want to flow but they got no show.” I learned, but then when it would come to be Enta Da Stage and I started learning how to follow those flows. I was being turned into a whole different flow like, “Wow, this goes this way, this goes that way,” and for me it never was the same after that, ‘cause I wasn’t aware of that.
DJ Evil Dee: Doing Enta Da Stage, I learned a lot about production. I’ve done a lot of work at home. I would go to the studio to experiment and try to free up my sound. And it was funny because doing Enta Da Stage taught me about bringing out what I feel. As a producer, I came with the hardcore bassline, dirty sound because at the time it was dirty sound and it was crazy. So it molded me into the producer I am today.
5 ft: I think it was both the sound and the flow. Enta Da Stage to me was changing the level of music, changing the tone of the music based off of “Who Got The Props,” and that excited me. I knew what exactly that was going to become, I felt it. Sometimes you’ve been in music so long that you can feel it. I can listen to somebody album and know if it’s going to be a single, switch this verse and get a certain response from this.
DX: What’s each of your favorite songs from the album?
Buckshot: That is one of the worst things you can say to an artist. That’s the worst question to ask any artist like, out of respect it’s the best. But it’s the worst, ‘cause like I’m pretty sure every artist knows. Very few artists can go, “Oh my favorite is such and such.”
DJ Evil Dee: With me it’s like, it took me a minute, but “Shit Iz Real” because the flow on there’s crazy. The end of the record, this dude [points at 5 ft] just lost it at the end of the record. And the way that the beat was put together, it was one of those records where I took all the samples so that musically they match. So that record right there, I feel like everybody showed their shit with that record.
Buckshot: I always kept full of different rhymes. “U Da Man” was one of my favorite at the time. “Son Get Wrec” was one of my favorites at that time, and it kept elevating. Every time I would hear something different, I would be like, “This is my shit.”
DX: “U Da Man” is the track that had Havoc of Mobb Deep on it. How did you link with him? Because there aren’t that many features on this album…
Buckshot: We wasn’t on [laughs], how could we have a feature? That album came after. That record came during “Who Got The Props,” not after, so it was hot on the radio. But we had no clue ‘cause it wasn’t like, “The record’s hot, go do an album.” There was no A&Ring really or anything like that.
5 ft: Everything was hands on.
Buckshot: Here’s some money, good luck. So I knew Havoc from around the way prior to us getting big, I knew him prior to that.
DX: And before they were bigger.
DX: They kind of came up when you guys did.
Buckshot: So for me it was beautiful to see not only we getting a record deal, but they came out as well, and that was the thing kind of like back then. It was weird, ‘cause again, a lot of us had prior relationships in certain, different ways through each other—even down to a Biggie who knew Tek [of Smif-N-Wessun] before he [was B.I.G.]. So when they got on, Biggie, you know what I’m saying, it was that flow. Brooklyn had that flow at that time so…
DX: You guys were in the studio with Tupac at one time, I saw the video…
Buckshot: Right. I’m glad it came out.
Buckshot Recalls Recording With Tupac Shakur On One Nation
DX: How did that go?
Buckshot: I’m glad they’re releasing a lot of footage from that Tupac [session]…I’m talking about more footage than the one everyone kept seeing. Now you see us coming out of the limo. Tupac was like, “Fuck the luggage, just leave that shit in the car.” We go right into the studio. Tupac linked up with us because Smif-N-Wessun had sent him “Hold Ya Head Up” shouts out. Pac felt like New York people wasn’t really fucking with him, and Tek and Steele was like, they had fucked with him. So he said, “When I get out, I want to fuck with the dudes who fuck with me.” Soon as he came home, soon as he got out, he got to Cali. All that shit that happened, he came home, he was fresh off of All Eyez On Me and everything was still rolling and he said I want to do my project, the One Nation album. That was going to have all of us on it.
[He said,] “I’m going to call up everybody.” It was going to be like 50 states. “I’ll be like the President…I want to be the individual that put it all together.” We’ve got New York, Texas, L.A. We had the Luniz on there, nobody even know the Luniz was on there, that made that record “I Got 5 On It.” We had Bone Thugs-n-Harmony on there. Since there was a few people on that album that we was all going to be one movement. I mean, it was going to be crazy. If you think about the power that ‘Pac had at that time, just imagine if his next movement was everybody coming as one nation. Something was, you know what I mean?
DX: Was this through Smif-N-Wessun so it was a Boot Camp thing? How did, I guess Boot Camp and Tupac actually come together? Did Tek and Steele reach out originally?
Buckshot: No, ‘Pac called the studio one night. We’re in the studio, doing the album with Heltah Skeltah. I produced beats at the time, so I was producing the intro to the Heltah Skeltah album. I got a call in the studio, and it was like, “Yo, Tupac’s on the phone, he wants to talk to you or Tek and Steele.” And I was like, “What?” He’s like, “Tupac’s on the phone and he wants to talk to either Buckshot or Tek and Steele.” And I was like, “Bullshit, who’s playing around, yo?” So I go back [and was like], “Yo, yo hello?” Like, “What’s good man this is ‘Pac?” I’m like “What? Yo who is this?” It was Tupac, yo and I’m like, “Oh shit this is son,” I’m like, “Oh shit.” He like, “Yo I want you to come out. What’s good Buck?”
He like, “Yo I want you to come out. What you doing two days from now? I want you to come out here and do an album with me. I’m sitting here with Greg Nice right now…we eating chicken.” I was laughing, and he said, “Fly out,” and I said, “We there.” He said “I’m going to send tickets for you.” That Monday we was on a plane going to L.A., and that’s the footage that they show of when we got off the plane. ‘Pac didn’t send his goons, ‘Pac didn’t send his label people. Pac and the Outlawz came to get us in their whip, and that’s what you see in the video. And we lived in his house, so we didn’t go in the studio or nothing like that.
DX: That is really interesting. But shifting to something else, Duck Down is something, you mention Heltah Skeltah, Smif-N-Wessun, your label inspired classic albums. It was responsible for multiple classics. Like you said on stage, 1995 brought Duckdown.com. It was kind of like before the Internet Age and music really even happened. What was your mindset behind all of this?
Buckshot: Right. How the hell do you even think about shit like that? As Hannibal from the A-Team would say, “I love it when a plan comes together.” We always stayed ahead of ourselves. And for me personally, I’m locked into a method of staying 10 steps ahead, especially after playing chess. In chess you have to have 10 steps or better. You cannot make (plans as you go); you can’t do that. Anyone that plays chess knows you can’t do that. So for me, I’m used to that. And before the Internet blew—bam, we changing it. [Talib] Kweli is with us now, and Pharoahe [Monch] is with us through his movement. [We have] new artists—Flatbush Zombies, Dyme-a-Duzin and Sean Price, Statik Selektah, Marco Polo and anybody who feels like the industry didn’t want to give us a shot. These are these new guys who came to say, “You know what? We was built off of people turning us away.” So as long as you got something that the people want, we have no problem giving you a shot.
DX: Yeah and there’s lots of new cats that have respect for not just you guys, like Roc Marci here, just everybody.
Buckshot: Roc Marciano, there’s even more…
Buckshot Explains Duck Down’s Work With Other Artists
DX: Yeah, and you mention Talib, who’s performing right now. You and him go way back…maybe talk about your relationship with him over the years.
Buckshot: Kwe built a relationship with us through 3D, which is Duckdown Distribution. We have Duckdown Music and then we have 3D, Duckdown Distribution. A lot of people don’t want this logo all over them because, with all due respect, you want your own logo, so we specialize in that. We created a system in where we say, “Let us just give you our minds, and you do everything else—your logo, everything you do—and just our mind.” And that’s what Kwe has, Kwe is through 3D. Everything Kwe built is Kweli, so all we do is add on, like, “Hey Kwe why don’t you?” and then we distribute. Everything else is on them. This man is a genius as well.
DX: Yeah, he is. On stage you were getting emotional during the performance. What were some of the thoughts going through your head during it?
Buckshot: There’s certain times that I’m on stage, and I never really think that people check for certain things. I’m on stage, and I be in that zone, and there’s times when I’m not in the zone and I fuck up. Sometimes, I won’t be in that zone, and when I’m in that zone I can hear, taste, smell, see everything, everything. I can feel Dee behind me. I can hear where 5 ft is at, and what the crowd is doing. I know what dude over there doing; I know everything—I see the back, cameras, the flashlight…it’s all one thing. When that happens, I’m like [claps hands], and so sometimes I take a few seconds to go, “Huh?” The records stop, and I be in the zone. I see the world. I’ll see the music. If I’m onstage and you actually film me and I’m doing something, that’s because I’m following what I see.
DX: I remember when I talked to you last time and I asked you if there was a possibility of another Black Moon album. You’re here, on stage, off stage celebrating the 20-year anniversary of Enta Da Stage. Does this maybe give you inspiration to make another Black Moon album, and is that a possibility down the line?
Buckshot: We’ll never stop making music. We’ll never quit, and we’ll never say, “We’re stopping.” When people don’t make albums normally, it’s because of the creative process, and I know it’s fucked up. It’s uncomfortable for a lot of fans, because people want things right away. They want it, and we want to give it to them. We’ve had experiences where, even Diggin’ in the Crates, where it wasn’t necessarily stuff that we was ready to put out. But we left the label, and the label took that and put it out anyway, and some people said, “I like it.” but it might not have been the second coming of the Black Moon that they were expecting.
So we’re not mad that you said, “Put it out,” and the label put it out. So we are going to do more albums, and we are going to make more music. [Points at DJ Evil Dee] we just did a song for the anniversary album—the live album of us all on the road. And we did songs like Kwe, killed it. He had the band going through a live set, and we’re going to put that out for the new fans of today that represent the old love. So we’re combining the two, and we also gave them a new song on the album. So yeah, we ain’t stopping.