From attacking KRS-One with the scathing diss “Beat You Down,” to declaring war the fake with Screwball’s “F.A.Y.B.A.N,” Blaq Poet [click to read] has epitomized hardcore Hip Hop to fullest extent over his 20-plus year career. His latest album Tha Blaqprint, dropping June 29 on Year Round Records, provides exactly that blend of street-ready music, boasting production from DJ Premier and Easy Mo Bee [click to read].
“[Tha Blaqprint], that’s that hardcore shit,” Poet told HipHopDX. “It’s just hardcore Hip Hop, street anthems. I’m talking a lot of shit. It’s just [that] hardcore that [people] ain’t heard in a minute. It shocks the system.”
He then added, “[DJ Premier] wanted to do the whole album from the gate. He wanted to do the whole album. He didn’t want anybody else to do the beats. That was the plan, but then Easy Mo [Bee] dropped a bomb, so we had to go with that. Gemcrates came with some fire, so we rolled with that…Gemcrates, he just gave me the beat and I went home with it. With Premo and Easy Mo Bee, I was in the studio with them, and we rocked in the studio, vibing for days.”
The first single off the album is the DJ Premier-produced “Ain’t Nuttin’ Changed.” When the song first appeared on the Internet, it made a significant splash among fans of the Screwball emcee. Poet describes the recording process of the song, explaining why he chose that to be the album’s first official single.
“The first single, you’ve got to make the beat,” noted Poet. “I told Premo [to] make something a little soulful, something with a little bounce to it, something with a R&B hook or something, like how 'Unbelievable' was with Biggie. He came up with that, [it’s] called 'Ain’t Nuttin’ Changed' with Akon [click to read] [singing] ‘When I come through the hood,’ off of one of his tracks, and [Premo] banged it out crazy. I just went and thought about ‘When I come through the hood,’ and how things are in the hood, how it used to be and all that, and it is what it is.”
Already in works is a remix of the single, featuring guest verses from California emcees MC Eiht and Young Maylay. Despite never having worked with any west coast artists before, Blaq Poet found the experience to be an indication of just how versatile and different Hip-Hop can be.
“[The 'Ain’t Nuttin’ Changed' remix] is popping, it’s already done deal,” said Poet. “Young Maylay killed it, shout out to him. MC Eiht, he killed it, shout out to him. It’s something new. It was the same beat bouncing, new lyrics. It’s a new song.”
He later added, “I’ve never worked with [an] artist from the west coast, this was the first time. I loved [working with them]. I know they know real niggas are going to do real things. If you’re a Hip Hop nigga, you’re going to spit that shit to it. I love to hear different flows and different niggas spit, different emcees getting it in. That was popping when I heard how [Eiht] was flowing with the different accent. It’s just crazy. It shows you what Hip-Hop is.”
Tha Blaqprint also features the song “Hate” [click to listen] featuring N.O.R.E., a fellow Queens native and one half of the duo Capone-N-Noreaga. Poet noted that because of the personal between he and N.O.R.E., a collaboration was an inevitable blessing. Yet given their relationship, Blaq Poet indicates just how important and singular of a song he wanted to make.
“N.O.R.E., that’s my dun,” said the Queensbridge emcee. “That’s my dun from back in the day anyway, so it was just a matter of time before [we] got in touch with each other. The name of the song was originally just going to be “I Fucking Hate You,” and I was thinking about…what kind of a song I could do with N.O.R.E. I just don’t want to do a song back and forth where we’re just talking shit. I want to do some ill shit with N.O.R.E., so I wanted to do some shit called 'I Fucking Hate You.' But then, I didn’t really get a chance to lay down the whole shit to N.O.R.E. of how I wanted him to [do it]...we just shortened it to 'Hate,' and I had him go out [on] shit, how niggas are feeling about the hate shit, [how they’re] going to handle it, and I just went in on why shit’s going down in the hood, how niggas are hating sometimes on people and shit like that. We got it in real quick.”
In addition, Tha Blaqprint boasts a wide variety of songs that capture every facet of Blaq Poet’s Queensbridge experience. Two such songs include 'Stretch Marks and Cigarettes' and 'Never Goodbye (Tribute to KL),' tribute to his fallen Screwball brethren, who died in 2008 of an asthma attack.
“['Stretch Marks and Cigarettes'] is [about] the strippers, that’s for the strippers right there,” noted Poet. "[That’s for] the females out there working and they’re going hardbody to get their money right. All of them ain’t perfect, all of them don’t have that smooth skin. Some of them have got some stretch marks and some cigarette burns out there. [The song is] just a shout-out to the strippers and the chicks in the club getting that money.”
Blaq Poet then added, “It was hard writing ['Never Goodbye (Tribute to KL)']. That was one of my brothers, basically. [He] was my first cousin, so we were more like brothers than first cousins. That was hard writing it, and once it was written, it was even harder laying it down, but we got through it.“
Beyond the two initial singles, a number of songs from Tha Blaqprint have previously leaked onto the Internet, appearing on a number of DJ Premier’s mixtapes. Yet despite these releases, Blaq Poet only sees this a positive indication that his music is resonating with fans.
“[Leaks are] all good, man,” said Poet. “If they’re not checking for [your leaks], they’re not checking for you. If your shit is leaked, then that is good. That means [the fans] hear you. If you’re already selling millions, you’re going to keep making your money, man. Your real fans are going to buy that shit, [not] download it, pay for it. So the bottom line is to keep constant and keep making music. You can’t keep worrying about chasing the dollar. It’s a billion dollar game, and you’ve got to be on your business. Once you put the business ahead of the game, it’s going to take away from your creativity. So don’t…worry about a download, just do your shit.”
A veteran from the Bridge Wars in the mid-‘80s, Blaq Poet has witnessed Hip-Hop’s numerous progressions and transgressions. Yet for him, diversity is exactly what the game and its fans need. He stresses the importance of artistic integrity and blames any of the game’s shortcomings on artist responsibility.
“Shit changes, man,” said Poet. “Everything ain’t going to stay the same. It’s alright that it’s changing, but it’s all about the artist that’s making it. Where are the artists that make the shit you’re looking for? Are they bullshitting and putting nothing out, falling off the map, or going to continue to push it out? You have to blame your artists for that, for the decline of shit, [for letting] you be stuck with the rest of their classics. You can’t expect them to keep [making] records. So it’s all about the artist maintaining what they do right now and not taking…10 years to drop an album. You’ve got to drop your shit, keep current, or you’re going to be fucking forgotten about and shit is going to change. It’s all good though because it’s all healthy. Hip-Hop’ s got to change. You’ve got a whole bunch of different [types of] Hip Hop out there. I make that hardcore Hip Hop. If you want that soft-core shit or that other bubblegum shit or some ‘shake your booty-booty-ass shake’ shit, it’s out there. Take your pick. You might want all of them; you might just want one of them. Take you pick man, but don’t be stuck on one of them. Don’t get stuck with what’s forced in your face everyday on TV or BET or MTV or the radio. Do your research, and you’re going to find what’s really out there. Go look at everything so you can see your choices. The only things you see are not the only choices.”