Mr. Lif - interview pt 1: honoring Gang Starr; GURU memories; touring w/ Shock G; The Perceptionists

Mr. Lif - interview pt 1: honoring Gang Starr; GURU memories; touring w/ Shock G; The Perceptionists

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oh here we go here we go uh hey what's up man uh it's great brother i'm i'm great and how are you uh good i'm good i'm sorry the lighting's not great down here like i'm literally in the basement this is where i do you know i do a lot of my recordings right top nod of woes and foes that come to get you the music is the only thing to help relieve the pressure to lose yourself in it till life is infinite to your immortalized legacy first of all i just wanted to wish you a happy birthday because you celebrated birthday on monday so thank you very much from me on behalf of you know our whole popular crew and i i believe i can play also all the fans in poland oh thank you so much man you know poland's a place i always wanted to spend more time man like i was in oh geez i feel like i feel like i've been to warsaw wait how am i pronouncing it correctly yeah well so okay oh so okay i've been i've been there one time man and then maybe i was in some other part of poland but it was so long ago you know for some reason throughout my career like going to poland never became a regular thing and i always wished it would because i i just enjoyed the people so much during my brief time there man and we we actually got a chance to meet and but not in poland at hip-hop camp in czech republic like 2008 yeah a long time ago i remember after your show with acrobatic you came out and you had a whole bunch of cds and i bought this cd from you oh dope okay sleepy s3 no doubt wow brother that's so dope so man it's just so crazy like you know living through these times with the pandemic and everything like you know for me now the world feels so much larger than maybe it ever has because i don't know i've been very hesitant to go fly anywhere you know so it's like i basically i basically went from someone who was traveling the world constantly to being like i don't fly anywhere you know i mean like um you know like anywhere i have to go i drive now you know what i mean and and you know and i'm not driving too far like i i'll drive from like basically like the greater boston area well so okay so i'm based now in rhode island so i'm like right outside of providence okay so i'll drive from like here to like toronto where my wife and son are based but like but that's about it man you know i'm saying like i you know i got an invite to come out to like oregon to do something to play a gig i was like nah you know maybe could go to la in like a couple weeks but i'm kind of like i don't know it's it's weird so like the thought of like i think of times in my life earlier when it's like oh i went to poland or i went to australia or i was in france and i'm like yo thank god i had the opportunity to do all that while there was this amazing era of human existence where there was no plague to be afraid of you know and you could move freely through the world and like and luckily for me underground hip-hop was at it at a high point you know i mean so i was able to like go and earn money and meet all types of people it just seems like a whole different lifetime now yeah exactly and now we are stuck dealing with this new normal the new normal bro yes exactly exactly as the title of your single uh says from from the new album so we will talk about that in a minute but just wanted to ask how are you dealing with this whole new reality basically because it was really depicted uh well in the single uh in the new normal video it kind of shows you know this whole strange new reality uh so how are you coping with that mentally i'm doing a lot better with it now maybe than i was initially you know i think it just came to such a shock it was such a shock for all of us right i mean there were some really creepy days in the beginning of this thing man you know like where i you know i still had some things that i had to finish up like aside from hip-hop i'm in real estate right so i was doing a gut i was doing a gut rehab on this duplex on this two family house right and you know my project was like 75 done and i had my tight little team you know it's almost like we were built for the pandemic because there were only four of us you know i mean there are only four of us um five if i showed up but it was just a tight team you know and we were able to kind of like do our social distancing and finish the job but i would have to drive from my home about let's say 15 minutes and man you know just looking out and seeing like oh no one's on the streets there's no more traffic you know there's nobody walking like it was just it was a creepy time but i would say now you know it's so funny it's like my mask especially during winter has become like a thing of comfort for me you know like but earlier in the pandemic i was like i cannot believe i have to wear this thing on my face everywhere i go now i find myself like now i'm just putting it on even if i am distanced from other people because i'm like yo it's cold i want to protect my nose you know i mean i'm i'm just like it's warm under this so it's funny how things change man but um but i'd say overall the way i the main way that i've been coping with this is i wrote the vanguard you know what i mean and um you know that was a huge coping mechanism for me i'm already halfway through writing the second vanguard you know what i mean so yeah you know stu and i are very excited to keep going with this you know and and then other than that man i'm just like i'm spending time with you know with my wife my son my mom when possible other family members my father-in-law my mother-in-law you know my sister-in-law whoever it could be my brother-in-law i'm just trying to you know i'm just focused on family um and and and and and and art and and my real estate work you know it's just i i just my world is my world feels pretty small i'm just focused in like laser focused on these things because these are the things that bring me joy so i'm just i keep my attention focus right there and i try to not let too much of like the negativity and despair come crashing in on me you know and it's interesting because i ran on an interview with you uh where you said that in the past you were more focused on the uh social political things going on outside and then you kind of gravitated more uh to writing about uh what you are dealing with in your personal life and kind of more introspective but right vanguard like the the concept the name is kind of like leading the people like a new movement almost so how does that whole thing connect and why did you decide to go with this name for the new project well i'll tell you what i think that you know vanguard is like it's a return to like the vintage me you know i mean because early on in my career it's like you know you look at records like emergency rations or i phantom and it's like i was i was always you know approaching you know very boldly these political issues these social issues and stuff like that and i think you know living through something like this pandemic this coronavirus pandemic it it makes it it highlights so many things you know what i mean like in america it is really highlighted how stupid the health care system is i mean i think we all already knew that it was terrible but you got massive waves of people losing their jobs and if they don't have a job they don't have health care because of how stupid you know because in america for some reason health care isn't just something that you get when you pay your taxes like in canada or something i have no idea why well no i do know why it's because a small group of very greedy people want to hoard all the wealth and all the money that they can make from it being the way it is and it's just you know so now when you got people losing their jobs because businesses have to shut down now you have a whole new wave of people that have no health insurance you know what i mean during a pandemic it makes no sense so seeing that and other things happening around me it just i couldn't sit here and not provide some socio-political commentary i had to speak on what i'm seeing what i'm feeling um you know and as far as like i would say like in terms of the personal writing that i've kind of done bef in times before vanguard i would say that a song like now is only now on the vanguard album is that it's that real pure mixture of vanguard like the return to the vintage me dealing with some of the social issues and also needing to address some of my personal pain you know because on the song now is only now i like talk about the dawning of a new mortgage crisis you know what i mean you know where i call the bank and i'm like hey so what are y'all doing for people that are struggling because of coronavirus and they basically just tell me in their own way really nothing we're really doing nothing except we're creating an illusion for you that you're going to be okay and then we're going to snatch your property away from them you know so that's like i touch i tackle that like maybe in verse 2 or something um actually jeez i can't even remember how many verses are in the song but early on and then i know verse 3 is about my personal struggle with being separated from my wife and son and not being able to get across the canadian border as an american and you know just it you know so that that i think is now is only now is the point where the vintage me that deals with sociopolitical meets the personal reflective writer and that's the song that i would say is the hallmark of that now as far as the name vanguard i love what i love what the word means right you know it's like a it's like a group of new people leading the way you know um so you know i see me and stu is like we're like a throwback to that boom that vintage boom bap sound but we have very we're very forward-thinking individuals you know so it's like we're giving you that that sound that so many of us grew up with and that feels good to so many of us to just hear it especially to hear it executed well as stu always does but what we're thinking we're trying to think beyond we're trying to push the envelope um and then the way that the word sounds vanguard it just pays homage to my favorite group gang star you know i mean like you know i can't i can't fully express how much gangstar means to me in terms of my development as a music fan as an emcee you know down to the fact that guru and i we even you know recorded god wrestle so we even recorded a couple songs together he always looked after my better interests you know if he could offer me a piece of advice as to how to navigate the music industry he would definitely drop that jewel on me so now that he's gone i want to do something that reflects and honors how much this culture of hip-hop has meant to me and there's no better way for me to do that than to link with one of the most ferocious producers in the whole game and recreate that producer mc duo in the spirit of my favorite group and to write songs that again god wrestles so i hope guru is proud you know when he when he hears you know i know he hears everything you know so i hope that he he'd be proud of what he hears when he listens to this this first vanguard and uh that was actually also a question that i had uh because like the gangster tribute is of course something that every like uh fan of you know 90s hip-hop will love so uh of course i caught that part and it instantly reminded me about the track party hard from black dialogue but also the track that she had on this uh mixtape sleepyhead's free there was a song called the relax with guru with you on gabriel rhyming over a classic a tribe called squares beat so how how much did these songs mean to you and how do you remember creating them because they're very different one is an official release on a debut album from the perceptionist and the other is like really like uh just just for the love of music like a mixed exactly we were just having fun you know man it's priceless man it's priceless to have communicated with with guru and to been involved in the process of writing two songs with him you know um and it is really cool that we got to work on something that was for like a you know a major release and so i know i know def jokes is still independent but for me for myself in acrobatic and facts one with the perceptions it was a major release for us and um so to get to work with him in that capacity where we're like okay the whole world's gonna hear this and then for him to reach out to me and be he was basically like yo i'm making this mixtape you know what i mean and i want you to just lay a verse on this he sent me the joint with his verse on it i was like okay he always sounds smooth you know what i mean so i was like okay let me try to come with you know and then i remember i when i initially wrote it i had this one line on it i can't even remember what the line was but he was like he was like yo i need you to rewrite that line though you know what i mean so i i was like okay i was like all right guru you know me i went back i i smoothed out the line and delivered it to him he's like okay he's like this is dope so i mean you know man i miss him man i miss him i miss him man um you know i can't say that we were friends but we were respectful acquaintances and he's a big time mentor to me and if he ever called upon me for anything i was there just like that you know so big big hole left in in the in the in the in the culture community in the art community in the hip-hop community but thank god he left us he left behind these jewels that we can we can for you know from now to the end of time go back and listen to we can listen to step in the arena we can listen to daily operation and hard to earn man a moment of truth oh the owners man um you know you know preem putting together one of the best yet i'm so glad preem did that man and yeah man so you know it just i'd say this man you know i'm i'm at like year 23 in this business you know what i mean like and you start to look around and you're just like man you know i've done a lot of things and i've been a lot of places and for me it was just like what type of legacy do i want to leave behind you know because now you know i fandom's getting real old you know enters the colossus is even older emergency rations is old you know there's like a whole generation people that never even came in touch with those records and i'm just like i think to to sound as hungry as i still sound and as motivated as i still sound it has to come from a place of love so i had to look and say what do i love the most about this art form in this culture what means the most to me to leave behind is my legacy right now and that's where everything that i've told you about vanguard comes right to the surface and that's why the records sound like that [Music] and since we already mentioned black dialogue uh to this year marked the 15th anniversary of the release of of this album that you did with acrobatic and dj facts one and i remember my introduction to your music was in 2006 nba live 06 uh because they had the track let's move and i was just playing the game a lot you know as a young kid and the track would come on like constantly i had no idea who the perceptionists were but i knew the name and then right once i was conscious you know of a view and acrobatic of your art and i bought the album and this track came on i was like i i already knew it's worth for word almost oh that's so dope man oh it's it's crazy how much how much those types of music placements mean right it's unbelievable like i think that there's i think that there's probably more people that know us from our songs being on video games or or in movies than probably even know us from like just having the record come out on deaf jokes you know i mean like it's crazy so i'm so thankful that you got in touch with the music brother yes sir and and how do you look back on this album and this era man that's one of the greatest honors of my life man i got to i got to make an album with two of my best friends and you know have it come out on a label that was red hot at the time you know death jokes lp did some of the production you know on songs like blow and people for prayers you know i'm probably forgetting something else it just it was an honor man it was an honor like i'll never forget the feeling of those studio sessions going to wonka sound out in lowell massachusetts with act you know with acrobatic and facts one and like facts was like like the height of his skills as a producer so i mean i i want to say like there was oh yeah there was a day that john cena was coming to the studio to record with us yup yup yup people yeah yeah so so john cena was coming to the studio and we didn't have a beat for him yet you know i mean we were like oh [ __ ] like what are we going to do like and fax was so skilled he just came into the studio brought his um i think he was using the asr x at the time brought the asr x tapped out the beat for the joint we made with cena which is this song called champion scratch and then made the song that came to be known as let's move like he made those in the same session right there in the studio just out of necessity like oh [ __ ] we don't have an album opener we don't have this joint let me just that's how skill these were but that's why it really hurt me so bad when like he left the group i was like bro like what do you mean like we worked we waited so long for this we worked so hard like you're not gonna come on tour with us he was like nah i was just like because he was about to have his first kid and i was like bro like i couldn't i couldn't comprehend it you know i mean luckily we had peyton locked god rested so i can't believe i lost pete man i've been on some losses man but um thank god we have peyton to come off the bench for facts and hold us down on tour as our dj payton's so gifted and talented too man jesus but um you know yeah man but yeah that tho those black dialogue sessions man that's some of the most fun i ever have making a record [Music] and uh one of my favorite tracks also from that album is career finders with humpty hump aka what is the story behind that track because it's probably one of the most fun records that you've ever made and also just shock g humpty hump is a whole different kind of beast an absolute legend and a very one of the most charismatic guys in hip-hop history probably exactly he really is i'll tell you what man so we were so dev jokes basically man things were just so good back then so def jokes had had it all you know like so the label had its own publicist its own booking agent so they could just and and you know and the whole world was clamoring to hear our sounds so you know we could kind of arrange a tour at any time and be like okay let's just go do it we'd have packed venues you know so they put together this run where it was like i think it was it was mers i can't remember who else was on the tour mers was on the tour perceptions was worth was on the tour and mers brought shock g with oh cause yeah cause he cuz he had just i think he did this song was shot with with shang ji called risky business we're like yeah you know what i'm saying so mers was tight with him and he brought shot and you know it's like i can't believe these circumstances but shaq was down to come on the road with us so we're in the tour bus we get to build with shock every day and you know after the tour was over i think the tour might have like ended in boston or ended somewhere nearby and shot and we were able to just like get shocked to spend a couple of days like in boston with us and that's really the story of how the track came along now now who came with the concept i think it was acrobatic i think acrobatic came with the concept of like you know i think it might have been act and shock talking back and forth you know i mean about the concept but like of course yeah shock was definitely involved in the concept because it just sounds like his type of song you know and and like yeah man and once they told me i was like yo let me just write my verse i was like yo y'all i was like y'all hit a home run with this [ __ ] let me just write right by first so just mad fun man and um and 12 years after releasing uh black dialogue you linked forces again with acrobatic after after a long break for a surprise comeback album resolution on the music group as well yep and uh what did it mean to you artistically and also uh on a personal note uh considering that you've been friends with acrobatic for years uh what did it mean to reconnect and be able to get back in the studio and you know and like reload the try once again man it it it was so meaningful it was so meaningful man to just you know be able to work with my brother again and and just make another you know make another record i mean we didn't get the results we wanted from that record i think that there was a lot of there were some areas where where we were like a well-oiled machine but i think from the business standpoint in trying to work with mellow music group we were a little rusty we were indecisive about how we wanted to market ourselves like i didn't know if the best thing to do was be like mr liff and acrobatic the perceptionist we should have just left it how it was you know what i mean we should have just left it how it was the perceptionist and then had like mr liff and acrobatic like in small you know like how stu and i do vanguard it's like vanguard mr liff and stu bangers anyway i think like i think that the record got like very it's very weird how it's labeled like it's not easy to find on like spotify and apple music and stuff like that and there was just it was just this whole disagreement and a misunderstanding about it i think it just made it so that like people couldn't easily access the record right when it came out we didn't end up with the momentum that we wanted to we put so much love into that record to this day that's the only album i've ever mixed myself from front to back you know like you know and and we made it all in my home studio man it was like you know it was just like i just got to be at the boards for every song you know at my you know my little mini console and um just so much fun man i just got to break out different mics and find what act sounded best on and and we just had so much fun recording but you know and making the videos you know we just we just always had this perception of ourselves as as a as a rap group that could have really been big you know we always felt like that we were just like yo like you know we bring this dynamic especially when we perform on stage together we're like man we basically share our brain and we always felt like we had this potential and it was great making the record together but then i just think that the business surrounding how the record came out it just it just left us feeling hurt man like damn we put everything we had into this record and like we just i don't i just don't know how many people know about it you know so it was bittersweet again you know a couple of days ago and then once more and once more uh it's an amazing record in my opinion it's completely different from the first one but it has a new dynamic new energy and at the same time some of the best qualities that the q1 act bring to the mic like you know from the message lyrics sound like uh i really think it's a it's an amazing record and uh thank you yeah thank you are there any favorite tracks you know in particular or you just like the body of work overall uh i think for me uh some of my favorites would be out of control uh okay grab hold uh free at last you know i always like those um light uh those hopeful tracks but right but i was also feeling the bangers uh because you know it was something fresh that i haven't heard from you before so just the whole album whole package uh it's a really great character thank you so you know brother it's it's so nice to hear you say that man because i just i i ended up feeling very i was too i gave too much energy to the outcome from a sales standpoint i gave the business part of that album too much of my energy and attention and as a result i haven't i haven't listened to that record probably for like two years you know front to back i haven't listened to it and i and and and it deserves for me to listen to it because we put so much work into it you know so i think you just inspired me to you know to really listen to that record and to just take it in and separate myself from what the outcome was from a business standpoint and just enjoy the art and enjoy the fact that my brother and i made that record you know so thank you for that brother yeah thank you as well and and that reminded me because when i interviewed speech from arrested development uh i asked him about their second album zengala maduni and yeah at the time that it came out it also it wasn't received as well as the david album from sales standpoint and also uh the reviews and and the reception from the people because it was just so different from the first one but right he said that over the years a lot of people have come to him and and telling him that that's their favorite album from development and sometimes the music just you know it grows on people over the years so hopefully that's what happens also with this one because you know i hope yeah but you know what was so wild as you're telling me that i'm thinking like you know i bet the far side has the same story about lab cabin california yeah i bet you diggable planets has the same story about blowout comb block home is an amazing record man like i listen yo i listen to blowout home like a thousand times more than i listen to their debut but the debut album had all the hits right you know but but blowout comb had like a guest appearances by like jayru the damage of guru like that record was just so it's just a beautiful record so yeah man it goes like that sometimes like the music industry is weird man like people hear you um and and they might love your sound initially but a lot of people won't be ready to grow with you you know if your sound changes or you just artistically want to go to a slightly different place a lot of people won't go with you you know or the record label wants you to stay the same they don't want artistic growth they want you to just make those hits and you know so it just kind of is what it is and i kind of i i feel the pain and i share the pain of every artist that that feels that way oh black sheep their second album the non-fiction you know i think it was called you know yeah like you know they got the same story like i feel like i could build with all these brothers you know and just be like man yeah it just it didn't pop off the second time around umc umc's you know fruits of nature album was so like colorful and beautiful and then the unleashed album you know it just people weren't ready for them to try to be hardcore so it is dos effects yo the list goes on the list goes on brother you know what i mean so it's a tough thing yeah and even now it was written when it came out people were criticizing the beats uh you know for being to mainstream to west coast and then and now like everybody really sees that album as a classic so it's it's funny how that works out it's funny how that works at the time though in 96 for him coming off illmatic nobody wanted to hear him on no trackmaster's beats including me bro including me i i was quick to go to i gave you power shootouts um you know live and rap you know which is like the closing song with mob deep um you know there were joints on there i love black girl lost which might have been a track track man i can't remember who produced that but like there were joints but i wasn't really trying to hear like street dreams i wasn't trying to hear the message i definitely wasn't trying to hear if i ruled the world because i remember bruh let me tell you something i was in queens the day that song came out i was sitting in the back right seat of my uncle station wagon i was with my cousins and my uncle and we were going to go visit some family members in queens so i'm in the heart of it i'm wearing nozzles no i'm not in queens bridge but i'm in queens that song came on and all i heard is that nas and lauren hill made a song at the time lauren hill was like if not the nastiest one of the nastiest mc's out so all i wanted to hear was her spit a verse and i'm like wait she's going to be spitting with knobs this is going to be like the illest song i've ever heard when that [ __ ] came on and i heard her singing and and i heard the beat i was like yo you gotta be kidding me like they came like this like this is mad soft like compared to what i thought i was going to hear i wasn't ready to accept it and it's still not a song you won't ever find me going to put that on like no i like when i'm listening to hip-hop i'm not going to seek that song out press play but i do recognize that if you take a step back and you just look at through the annals of of history that's the song that a lot of people could relate to man you know what i mean like there's a reason that it it it blew up you know what i mean so it is what it is man they were smart they handled their business they went about it right and a lot of years later knowles is still here and still sounds ill on the mic i agree

2021-04-20 01:13

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