Hot on the heels of last fall’s highly-praised pairing with fellow Diggin’ In The Crates crewmember O.C. on Oasis, A.G. is already releasing a new project: Everything’s Berri. His first solo album since 2006’s Get Dirty Radio drops today (June 29th) via A.G.’s own label, Red Apple 45 (in conjunction with Fat Beats Records).
During a quick Q&A with HipHopDX late last week, Andre The Giant explained the meaning behind the unique title for his latest solo offering, (as well as the album’s eye-grabbing cover art). The Bronx, New York native also revealed why the rugged soundscapes provided by his longtime p-n-c, Showbiz, cannot be heard on the album, and how both Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. expressed their fondness for the classic ‘90s works from Show & A.G.
HipHopDX: Everything’s Berri, what’s the meaning behind that title?
A.G.: I mean, a berri is [whatever] you make it. Like, [saying] everything is berri, [that’s] like [saying] everything is all good, no matter how bad it gets… Slow motion is better than no motion… Where we come from we learn how to turn our negatives into positives, and that’s a form or way of [expressing that]. No matter what’s going on, everything is berri, all good. And we use berri’s [for] everything: they’re beats, they’re women…clothes. It’s just the terminology that we adapted to and we use it constantly, every day.
DX: I noticed on this album it’s got a real laidback vibe, like the self-explanatory “I Wanna Chill.”
A.G.: People have known me for years for the energetic, just wanting to spit lyrics, 16 bars, make it hard stuff, and I felt like there was a certain audience that liked my music that would wanna hear me a little laidback… The music is more acceptable for everybody, it’s not just for the Hip Hop [audience], it’s for whoever that likes good music… And to [accommodate] that we had to slow it down [and make it] not too harsh. Ray West, he’s the master behind that, and he has a whole audience that he wants to get his music to. So we compromised [on] that, and I really, really enjoy the outcome because now I have like my grandmother, aunts and stuff talking about, “Well I like this one here…” In the past it was hard for me to get them to embrace my music ‘cause it was probably too hard of a message and too hard of an approach… Whenever I do Showbiz & A.G. projects that hardness, that rawness will always be there [though].
DX: Where’d that photo for the album cover come from? It looks like it’s 1982 -
A.G.: Yeah, it’s around that time, and it’s an actual photo, it’s not something we [photoshopped]. One of our partners involved with the Everything’s Berri project, Abdul Jabar, that’s actually his family.
DX: Is there like some sort of meaning behind the cover in [connection] with the title?
A.G.: You see the lady breaking into the car, [and] the dude is watching out, but yet everything’s still berri… It’s a unique cover, and we get a reaction out of it. And that’s most important. It’s real vintage, and it’s different from what people are putting out nowadays, ‘cause we’re trying to reflect art. That’s my main goal in music is to reflect art and not just something that I’m trying to take advantage of, or be a leech… It’s to show art, and to show the world where I come from.
DX: And I just gotta ask, why’d you decide not to have Showbiz do any production on this album?
A.G.: Because Ray West is the only one who can do this album. Me and Show have our own thing. Show has an album right now with KRS-One, and I support that totally. And we support each other. I just talked to him a little while ago and he put his stamp [of approval] on the [Everything’s Berri] album as well. I just wanna show people different things, then when we do the Show & A.G. thing they can appreciate that for what it is.
DX: Ray West, he did “Infected” , he did the whole album?
A.G.: He did everything except for “YMI Still Here,” and that’s produced by Menocal who’s also down with the Red Apple 45 family. Red Apple 45 is the label me and Ray West started together.
DX: Yeah, that “Infected” shit, that was fly. That “Party Hard, Hustle Hard” is some superfly shit. It’s been a year-and-a-half since Party Arty passed, so what motivated you to put a dolo joint from him on your new album?
A.G.: He’ll be a part of anything I ever do, and I’ll try to get him on any album, on any project that I’m ever on because I’m truly inspired by his life right now, more than ever. This is somebody since 1993 that walked every step I walked. Every place in the world I touched he touched with me. So for him not to be here, and A still to be here, I gotta use that as motivation. And I do it everyday, I listen to his music everyday. And a lot of his music was from the heart, so it’s like conversating with him while he’s not here.
DX: And how did that “Dilla 4 Ever” joint with Arty on your Myspace come about?
A.G.: That was supposed to be for Dilla’s album, but as you know someone else is in control of his estate, and it just got sticky, so I just fell back from that. And [so] I just felt that I’ll put it out for free and just let the people have it.
DX: You saying Ma Dukes didn’t wanna use it - ?
A.G.: No, Ma Dukes is not [really] in charge of the estate as far as I know. Someone else is in charge of the estate. Ma Dukes is actually supportive of the [song], but I think [J. Dilla’s] former accountant is [still] the head of his estate and they’re not doing totally right by [Ma Dukes]. To my knowledge [that’s what’s going on].
DX: Speaking of O.C., he’s not on Everything’s Berri, so I just gotta ask are y’all planning to provide us with another Oasis of dope Hip Hop tracks?
A.G.: Hopefully. I love the chemistry with O. But we do have an album with O by himself on Red Apple 45 [coming], produced by Ray West totally… We have an album with Party Arty as well.
DX: You know when that O.C. album is gonna come out?
A.G.: No, not right now. Me and Ray have like three more albums, but in the midst of that, we definitely wanna put out the O.C. album.
DX: I just wanna go back to the Oasis project for a second here, did recently allowing folks to download Oasis for free –
A.G.: [Interrupts] Yeah I did that. I was getting frustrated. I think it’s a good album, and more important than record sales or anything I think people need to hear it… I always said if there wasn’t no money involved with Hip Hop I would still be doing it, and that’s a reflection of that right there. And I took a chance, I mean, Nature Sounds could be mad at me…but this is something that I wanted to do on my own because people were getting snippets and stuff here and there like, “Yo, this album is crazy. When it’s coming out?” And that [is] really like what made me feel sick to my stomach, so I just decided to upload it and you can have it.
DX: Are y’all officially done with Nature Sounds pretty much at this point?
A.G.: O.C. and A.G. [as a group] are officially done [with the label], but I try to right every wrong that’s ever done, and everything that’s not completed I try to complete. And I don’t try to destroy relationships, so I’m trying to keep those [doors] open. Me and [Nature Sounds CEO] Devin [Horwitz] was building this morning about doing more stuff, so…that’s a relationship I feel that’s still held onto.
DX: I wanna wrap this quick Q&A up by noting that “YMI Still Here” joint that you mentioned, that you released for free download last month. You run through all of the deceased artists you’ve crossed paths with in your career: Big L, Big Pun, Party Arty, Roc Raida, Guru. I was a little surprised that you mentioned Tupac at the beginning of the track though. Were you saying that ‘Pac had just copped a copy of Goodfellas right before y’all last spoke…?
A.G.: He just copped the single of “Fat Pockets.” He was like, “Yeah, I was looking all over for it.” And we was actually at Morgan State [University] – it was on the Run-DMC/19NaughtyIII Tour – and he came up to me. The whole crowd was really gravitating to him but he came up to me and was like, “Yeah, I was looking for this single all over.” And I’m like, “I can give it to you.” [And] he was like, “Nah, that’s not what I do. But I found it and I bought it out the store, and I just wanna say you inspire me so much.” That meant a lot to me… For people that had a lot of attention on ‘em, for them to be listening to [my music] and to understand and get it, that means everything to me. And then we vibed after that, he came to New York, he hung out with me and Show [in the Bronx].
Biggie’s another one who [showed respect]. We was in the club partying and like listening to our own joints: “Party & Bullshit,” which Lord Finesse produced, they was playing that. And I’m like, “I know who you are, my man produced this joint.” And he was like, “Yo, I just wanna get on your next album.” But, Goodfellas was done already.