Joined: 30 Jun 2002
|exclusive NP interview with boombap.com 10/20/03
interview conducted by Andrew:
So is this officially the first Non Prophets interview?? I mean do Boom-bap.com have an online exclusive here??
Joe: No. I'm sorry man, there have been others.
Sage: What makes you think this is the first Non-Prophets interview? I wish I could say yes. That would be great.
I don't know really I just thought that this might have been your first online interview together since the LP dropped, cos I hadn't seen one anywhere else!! Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, eh?
Sage: Yeah, but we've been together for a while now. This is still an exlusive interview though. because that makes it special.
Joe: We're online?
First off I've got to give you both props for the new LP "Hope," I'd say it's def. one of the dopest releases of the year so far. But yo, what do you both think of it? Are you happy with the end result? I only ask cos sometimes you hear about artists chatting on how they aren't totally happy with the end result cos of this drama or that situation or are the Non Prophets a duo who has that much control over your music that this kinda thing would never happen?
Joe: First off, I appreciate the props on the lp -thank you. I'm very
happy with the end result. Lex records gave us creative control over the
music. We would've probably just put it out ourselves had that not been the
case with any label that approached us. As far as the music is concerned,
I'm -again- souped. I'm very proud of this lp.
Sage: He said dopest album of the year..."so far." ha. We're in October. It doesn't matter to us if you think it is great or horrible. The best or the worst. Your honest opinion is enough. SO WHATCHA THINK???!!! That being said, this is the best album of your whole life. Had the Beatles stayed together for 5 more years they MIGHT have made this album.
Hmm, you're probably right actually, I mean, I can totally imagine John spitting Xaul Zan ideologies while Ringo tweaks the boards, for real. Saying that though my honest opinion is that it is a dope album...I really do mean it, question is will it be able to resist the challenge of Jigga's Black album for LP of the year, eh??!!
Joe: HEY! This is the underground! We are all supposed to hate Jay-Z,
Sage: No no no. Actually, this is the SUB-underground where we all swear that Jay-Z is the best rapper since Biggie died.
I've got to admit that I was never a big fan of your's, Sage, and I hadn't heard much of Joe's production, an unusual thing to say at this stage of the interview, I know, but I reckon this album has shown you both in a new light, dare I say it, you both come across as a lot more "Hip Hop" than I first thought. As such do you feel that you have both somehow explored new ground on this LP, thus attracting a new audience that may not be familiar with your past work??
Sage: Like you. You obviously weren't hip to the work that my friends and I were putting out in 96,97,98,99. All we did with "HOPE" was finish what we started back then. I was then able to do an album like Personal Journals because I had the opportunity to expand beyond the traditional sound of hiphop and exlore other regions of it. Add to the scene rather than just taking from it. People who were insecure with their own history and involvement in hiphop didn't know how to deal with that because it challenged their idea of what hiphop was supposed to sound like. Too bad.
Haa! Yeah I reckon your dead right there...I'm know I'm very insecure about Hip Hop..But still, you would agree that you are coming from a more traditional Hip Hop stance with the release of "Hope"?
Sage: Definitely. We're operating within the box and doing the way I think it should be done.
Dropping influences and references on wax seems to have laways been common place in Hip Hop but do you feel that sometimes these references are lost for the majority of todays b-boys and b-girls. I mean for example I heard nods to the likes of old school rhyme slinger Busy Bee and also Brother J of the X-Clan on "Hope." Or are you both striving to educate the listener, aswell as shout out your own influences?
Sage: I think this is hiphop's way of remembering the past. Through allusions and references to the past. If these "b-boys and b-girls" don't understand the references, there should be an elder b-man or b-woman to say, "Hey...do you understand why this is dope? Because he completely flipped a phrase that Rakim made popular in 1988, while freshening up the reference with a timely topic. Now go practice on your head glides until your hairline looks like mine."
Joe: It's always a plus if the listener goes back and checks out some of
the things being referenced. That's the best case scenario. However, I'm
NOT mad at them if they don't. I mean, when anyone in the juice crew
dropped old school references before my time, I wasn't any less of a fan or
love the music any less because I didn't get it. It was simple: I started
listening to hip hop in 1986 and I didn't know much that came before that
time. It wasn't my bad, you know? In all, if they like the music, that's
enough for me.
Sage: Man, you need a hiphop mentor to MAKE you do that homework. Some discipline. That's what you need, kid.
So who's your respective Hip Hop mentors? Or are you both self taught?
Joe: Mostly self taught then Moodswing 9 came in and showed me a bundle. I learned alot from a kid named AftaMath as well.
Sage: My biting comments were not directed at you. They were directed at Joe. Pshhh...he probably doesn't even know the name of the label that put out the record of Grandmaster Bling-a-Lot beatboxing over DJ Grafittirock's scratch composition. Its essential to know these things. Jesus was my mentor.
Joe: No, Sage; the name of the label was NADELY NUFFIN SUCKAME PUFFIN'
records! You think I haven't picked up my reissues? You're always trying
to test me man. What do you think? I was a punk rocker six years ago? Now back to the question....
Yes, it was intentional. I always say we had to do this album. It was our
ode to the hip hop we knew and loved. Traditionalism will always be a part
of my production. However, everyone and their mommy swears they are doing SOMETHING traditional in their efforts and that's what makes it ok to call it "hip hop". It's kind of like communism, some of the things artists
rationalize are traditional these days just kind of make me laugh. Someone might even hear Hope or anythign else I do, hear me call it "traditional" and have the same reaction -haha. You never know...
Ok, I wanna get an idea how you guys formed Non Prophets. You met each other while attending college in 1997, right? How did that go down...I mean, what made you two so tight and decide to go on and make music together.
Joe: I met Sage well before I was producing. In fact, he had a sampler and four track in his dorm room when we first met. I told him I wanted to make beats because I thought I would be good at it to which he replied "you and everyone else". As just friends, I thought he was one of the best emcess I'd EVER heard. Eventually I started making beats and giving everything I made to him. At that time, he wasn't working with any hip hop producers; he was in a live band. It took me a while before I started making things he
actually thought he could write to. Finally I came up with the beat for
"Bounce". After that, there was no looking back; we were a team.
Sage: I threw a bagel at his face in the cafeteria and said, "Eat this you fucking Jew." Turns out he wasn't even Jewish and that he hated every non-shite race just like me. We really hit it off after that. Nah, but...really...his nose kind of makes him look Jewish and there was a Jewish girl who wouldn't fuck him unless he WAS Jewish. So that's why I threw the bagel at him and said that. I played the wing man.
Why didn't he just say to the girl that he was Jewish if he looked Jewish?? Then he could have fucked her?
Sage: That was the original plan. He did that. But then there was some Jewish holiday that Joe didn't know about and she got suspiscious. That's when I inadvertently came into play.
Joe: It was so money! Halacha! Halacha!
Your first two singles, "Bounce"/"Drop Bass" and "All Word No Play"/"Majority Rule" came out a good few years ago now. Was their a particular reason for the long delay between these tracks and a full length?
Joe: I just had to wait for him to get through all these projects. I
admit, at times, I got salty. Who wouldn't? I wanted to be a part of the
party. Who doesn't? I was in a bad mind set; I was cocky. I rationalized
because Sage was first on wax with me, our project trumped every other.
That was dead wrong because he's been peforming, battling, and making music
by himself since he was like 12. At the same time, I was brand new to the
game; I had only been producing for about a year and a half when the first
record dropped. I thought all I had to was release a good 12" and the
offers would come rollling in. I wasn't working on much music and I dropped
out of school, thinking opportunity was right around the corner. I did all
the dumb shit, like too much useless politicking with other artists. The
fact I thought all of these things was a red flag in itself I wasn't ready
"mentally" for a full length release of this magnitude. Sage knew that. He
also moved to Brooklyn and took full advantage of whatever buzz came our
way. I can only imagine how this sounds but it wasn't like he left me or
anything. He still kept me in the mix; a lot more than I deserved at times.
He just knew it wasn't our time for the non-prophets lp. I'm very
grateful for everything and glad things have shapen up the way they did.
Sage: There was a lot of growing that Joe and I needed to do before it was appropriate for us to put out an album like HOPE. I didn't understand it completely, but I followed my gut and luckily Joe stuck out the long wait. There were lots of circumstances. One main thing...NO MONEY. No management. Business was bad. The label we were working with at the time was scared to make any real moves. We had to figure it all out on our own. So that's when I started Strange Famous Records and just put out bootlegs of my own shit. I needed to do that in order to eat. I graduated from college and had no intentions of getting a 9 to 5. So what it took this album 5 years to come out? That is a good amount of time for a group to collect itself, get their feet planted, let ideas simmer and then BANG...debut album. Too many people are rushing their projects.
Saying that then are you expecting the next Non Prophets album to be a lot further down the line or are gonna strike while the iron is hot and get another album out there by early next year?
Sage: There's no telling with the Non-Prophets stuff. I don't see us pushing to get another album out just because there is a renewed buzz. I think Joe and I will continue on in our solo paths and within a certain amount of time we will have another Non-Prophets album ready when it feels right.
Joe: Agreed. Hopefully we will still come together for our individual
projects though. If not, oh well...looks like my career is down the drain.
Aww hell, I ain't too proud to beg. Come on Sage, just one more...PLEASE!
I need your chicks! The jewish angle doesn't work anymore.
Joe, how did it feel when you knew for sure that you and Sage were gonna finally start creating an Non Prophets album together? I only ask cos I imagine it was kinda hard for you to see Sage blowing up on the underground scene while you were failing to make the East Coast semi-finals of the Alpha-n-Omega Magazine Battle Of The Beats VI competition. Or were you happy to make moves and further learn your trade before you got together again on wax.
Joe: I lost in the first battle of the beats as well with the beat for "The
Cure". Plus, that was right after our 2 records were fresh out there too.
What I mean is when you have a little bit of a name (be it from a few 12"'s
or association to a rapper who's blowing up) it's a lot tougher for you to
succeed in a situation like that as opposed to it serving to your advantage.
That's why I give Cheapshot so much props for taking it a few battles ago.
So, without going into the obvious details of why, it's the opposite of
what you're insinuating -haha. It's funny you note a learning process
because -again- I feel "learning" was one of the only things missing for
this lp to come out. Most of the beats were made in late 2000 to early
2001. "The Cure" beat was actually made mid 1999. Here we are late 2003
and the record is finally being released. Point being, I feel the music was ready but I wasn't.
By the way man, I still think you served Dragon 420 with your track at Battle of the Beats...besides, look at you now and where's 420 at, eh?
Sage: What the hell is up with these horrible names?
Joe: Listen man, I sleep on nobody. I thought Dragon 420's beat was phat.
I even went to his website and checked out a bunch of other things I thought
were just as dope. Just because I was fortunate enough to link up with a
hard working and very talented emcee and was put on a label as a result,
doesn't make me any better or on any higher ground than anyone who doesn't
have the same opportunity. The beauty of it all is that there are kids in
the basement that can outright serve the shit out of anyone who thinks they
are the best just because they have a publicist and have believed thier own
hype. So yo, I'm more cats like Dragon 420 than I am kids I fight for page
time with, trust. Big up to him. I'm sure he's still doing his thing and
doing it well.
Sage: What the hell?
Haa! Don't worry Sage, I just wanted to see where Joe's head was at on his come uppance. Anyway I've heard alot worse than Dragon 420...Which I guess leads me on to the phenomenon that is the Internet. What do you guys think of the net and it's relationship with Hip Hop? Are you feelin' all these kids with Fruity Loops dropping tracks on message boards?
Sage: I am absolutely indifferent. Joe probably has a more formulated opinion on this.
Joe: Yeah, Sage, we'll get back to you in a minute; it's my turn -hahah.
The net's relationship to hip hop is a complex mathematical equation; one I have no idea about. We're online? I like the kids on my board.
Joe, I think I heard or read somewhere that you don't consider yourself a "producer" in the traditional sense of the word, why is that?
Joe: No, I think I probably said my productions are more "routines" than
anything. I'm not big on triggering or playing out any individual sounds to
create my own. I loop, that's what I do. I take a drum break off the
original piece of wax and mix it with a groove or loop off the original
piece of wax. From there, I try to mix in as many samples that will be in
tune or sound good enough to be a part of the piece. I don't note variate
my basslines. I'm don't rock drum kits off borrowed discs. I don't time
stretch or pitch shift. If that's your thing, fine -no disrespect. I just
have my own process that makes it feel proper to me, that's all.
Tell us a bit about the formulation of "Hope." What were some of the processes behind the compositions on "Hope"? Did you have a single concept or mission in mind to begin with or have you known since you formed that you'd make an LP like "Hope"
Sage: Man. It's been a long road. I rewrote every song so much that none of the original lyrics were used on the end result. Lots of concepts were abondoned. A couple songs were scrapped due to their "feel." One was a heart break song, the other was a political rant. HOPE was supposed to be an uptempo, catchy album with a fun, light hearted feel. I'm an intense person, so...even my most "fun" shit can end up with a bit of a bite to it, so I figured I didn't have to worry about it coming across as bubble gum. We recorded this whole album on a port. Very RI. There were many times in the making of this album that Joe and I had severe friction. Can you imagine that??? haha. This album was almost abandoned a couple times. Thankfully we pulled through.
Ok, tell us a little bit about your aspirations for your new album "Hope"? What are your respective or even joint goals for the album?
Sage: I want it to make lots of rappers rap again. Because a lot don't. But its fun. Do it.
Joe: Hell, I just want to get out! Nah, I'm playing. I think the goal is
to have fun bridging our own gap of the stuff we want to do now with a
commitment to reference what we loved about the 1989 to 1995 era. That's really what Hope shaped into: a fun album.
Sage: And there's a way to do it with purpose.
Man, that's a strong statement to make. So, if todays rappers don't rap..and Sage Francis is known to battle..who are you calling out, man?
Sage: There aren't many multi-faceted rappers left. The people who CAN rap well aren't doing it. It almost seems like...the only people rapping are pop rappers with repulsive content. But they rap very well so that's why so many underground heads are forced to give them props, because no one in the indie scene is displaying nearly as much skill. The ones who could feel an urge to work AWAY from rapping because they don't want to be categorized in the same group as these shit heads. It's a catch 22. I am through with calling out names. That's for them to do.
Talking on battling...are you pretty much done with battling for props these days, Sage? I mean you won Scribble Jam a few years back now...how did that feel and will you ever return?
Sage: Not really. Never to any serious degree. I haven't been serious about battling since 1999. It was a good hiphop workout for a while. My muscles were developed, I went on to other things. I hate the gym.
So, what's the feedback been like on the LP so far?
Joe: It's been pretty positive for the most part. I'm more concerned about
the fans than I am the reviewers. Whenever someone emails me about it, it
really makes my day. As of late, that's the best part I guess...
Sage: Amazingly, all the reviews I have read have been extremely positive. My approach to this album was almost an answer to all the criticism I got from Personal Journals. Now that I am not getting a lot of criticism I don't what the hell to answer to. Time to disappoint again.
Are you bothered by bad press or do you both feel that the media has negated it's grip on Hip Hop's audience by slamming it at every possible opportunity?
Joe: Yes, some have personal agendas and unnecessarily slam the shit out of
artists. On the other hand, a lot of just outright fans pass themselves off
as reviewers and that's not very good either. In that sense, they have an
agenda as well. However, there have been some who've had good input on what
the lp might lack, etc. It takes a lot of professionalism to be a good
reviewer or critic. They are some. It all evens out I guess. The one's
with personal agendas really piss you off though. I know me, anyway...
Sage, Tell us a bit about Xaul Zan?? Is that cat gonna be dropping an LP anytime soon!!!???
Sage: Not soon. But eventually. It might just come out on cassette tape and nothing else. It will be called the Hiss Sessions.
I wish I beleived you...seriously!
Sage: I'm not kidding. heh. Really.
What's the next single gonna be from the album?
Joe: Damage. We're in the process of getting some remixes for that single
so it will be more like an EP. It should be out in the coming months.
Are you gonna be touring Europe any time soon? UK dates??
Sage: I just did two tours of Europe, many shows in the UK. Where the hell were you? It was great. I don't want to return for a while now.
Joe: I don't know. I just sent the info in to recieve my passport. If I
get it in time and the opportunity is proper for me to go I'm there baby
I was there man. At the Scala (London) a couple weeks back, I just wondered if you were gonna be touring with Joe anytime soon?
Sage: Not in Europe. But we will be touring the states in Feb and March.
Joe: 80 dollar passport and picture: WASTED. HAHA. Let me look on the
bright side: here I come Milwaukee.
Sage: $80? Who you working with, guy? My man Mohammad could hook you up real cheap. Then get your ass behind some turntables. Those Europeans eat that shit up.
So what's next for you both. Joe I heard one of your beats on CNJ Records compilation "Nightime" a while back. Any plans to work with those guy's some more? Sage are you gonna do work with Anticon again or was that always a one shot deal?
Joe: It was only one track I co-produced called "4 Steps" by Swann Notty.
I'm still cool with all of those guys, they are very good friends of mine.
I won't get into what projects I plan on getting into. I've learned this
business is too tentative and not to waste anyone's time with projects that
aren't finished or out. One thing you can count on is, I'll be working my
ass to get out there as much as possible.
Sage: Yes, I will be working with anticon cats some more. I don't know if I will ever put out another project on anticon but I am still very tight with a lot of the artists and there's lots of great music to be made.
Mon Oct 20, 2003 10:05 am
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