Last Thursday, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania emcee collective the Money Making Jam Boys released their first project, The Prestige mixed by Mick Boogie & Terry Urban. The veteran outfit of The Roots' Black Thought, Dice Raw, Truck North, P.O.R.N. and S.T.S. (a/k/a Sugar Tongue Slim) is making a splash with their 10.Deep-sponsored free project, the first after years of existing in the periphery of the extended Roots Crew family. Yesterday (February 7) Dice Raw and Truck North spoke to HipHopDX about Prestige, the group's history, and future plans.
"The [group formed] right around the time we were making [2008's] The Antidote," began Truck North, who founded the album with Dice Raw in 2007 before their first free project. "We all wrote together anyway, on Roots albums. We came up with this concept to do some first thing that pops into your head-type of Rap. That's not really too hard with us, but it was the flip-coin of the cognitive, emotionally-heavy Roots projects."
From those early MMJB sessions, fans can get an audio glimpse of the group's earliest days in "Money Makes The World Go Round," which is included in The Prestige. "That's one of the oldest Jam Boys' joints," said Truck North, who said there are an entire album's worth of songs recorded over the last three-plus years that have never been heard.
In early 2011, respected clothing line 10.Deep stepped forward after some initial conversations with Truck North. "The stars kind of aligned on this one. It started with a chance meeting - me wanting some free gear," he said with a laugh. "Me wanting to rock some 10.Deep clothes turned into, 'Damn, we should do this mixtape.'"
10.Deep is respected for their history in artist mixtapes, including championed works like Kid Cudi's A Kid Named Cudi and Wale's A Mixtape About Nothing . "At this point in time, everybody has a clothing line, and everybody does something musical," pointed out Truck, when asked if he sees a growing trend in fashion and downloadable music collaborations. "Oversaturating that type of shit would be wack, 'cause there'd be no quality control. At that point, anybody with a t-shirt press and a rapper-friend [can do it]. With 10.Deep, it is quality controlled. The track record they have [is so respected]."
Within the tape are some highlighted moments, including "Coming Out Hard." Dice Raw explained that the particular drew inspiration from an unusual source. "Comin' Out Hard is my favorite album from 8Ball & MJG. It was [made in] the early part of the southern [Hip Hop dominance]. I feel like right now, east coast Hip Hop is in that same place, tryin' to make a resurgence. What's been goin' on in the Hip Hop world and in black music is soft, dumbed-down, dancy, jiggy mirror-image of the Pop market." Dice continued, "'Coming Out Hard' for me was about [being on] that 'Ball & MJG shit, just a Philly version. I was really feelin' like takin' mothafuckas out, all these soft rappers. Their voices is weak, and their beats is bubble-gum. That's what it's all about from me."
Like his battle rap-birthed partner, Truck North continued, "That's what we do: an all-out assault on rappers who can't maintain this level of lyricism."
With lyrical references and homages to the likes of Ol' Dirty Bastard, Schoolly D and Eric B. & Rakim on the project, Dice Raw was asked about the role in golden-era Hip Hop in influencing The Prestige. "The day and a half, all I've been listening to on repeat, is Kool G Rap [& DJ Polo's] Wanted: Dead Or Alive's 'Bad To The Bone', back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It still has me captivated as when I first heard it, if not more." Truck added, "It's funny that he mentions that, 'cause I cannot stop listening to [The Beastie Boys'] Paul's Boutique and [Three Times Dope's] Original Styling."
Both residents of Philadelphia - as Black Thought spends a bulk of his time in New York, and S.T.S. in Atlanta, the pair were asked how much The Prestige mirrors the trends in the various Philly neighborhoods, found in bars, parties and clubs. Dice explained that while the music's connection to the city is apparent to a listener, it was never a direct agenda of its makers. "It's like being aware of [something] all the time, like watchin' your back and shit. Then, smokin' a blunt, havin' a drink, and forgettin' all of that shit. Still, it's in you innately." Truck adds, "It's 'now' in the sense of forward-thinking. If we were just in the [present], we'd be Philly battle-rappers, that just seems like the shit to do from this city. But we try not to be where the ball is, but where the ball's gonna be."
As far as the MMJB's upcoming plans, the group is back focused on the powers that brought them together, The Roots. Both Dice Raw and Truck North are active in the ongoing sessions, which obviously also include Black Thought, the Roots' lead vocalist. "We're almost done right now," said Dice. Truck has a solo mixtape planned for spring called I Told You So, as well as a collaborative EP with Columbus, Ohio's. He said, "We're just keepin' our names goin' individually, but wavin' the Jam Boys flag the whole time."