Knowledge the Pirate is true to his name in more than one sense. Overt references to a lifestyle of plundering and smuggling aside, the rapper broadcasts his signature brand of streetwise, brutally honest storytelling directly to the people—operating outside the jurisdiction of music industry regulators. By offering the digital download of his debut album, Flintlock, exclusively on his website for a full month before making it available on the major streaming services—and physical copies through an array of small, yet influential independent labels—Knowledge has surgically removed corporate middlemen and gatekeepers from his business model with a cutlass.

Loyal to his small band of affiliates and preferring to collaborate organically, Knowledge only includes less than a handful of producers and one feature on his studio debut—the latter being Roc Marciano, New York City’s poster boy for raw, gritty, vivid street rap (who also produced a few of Flintlock’s tracks, alongside Elemnt, Mushroom Jesus and Knowledge himself). Having made memorable contributions to all of Marci’s projects since 2012’s Reloaded, it’s not hard to see why he considers the UN standout a best friend and brother. In addition to the ominous, yet soulful and descriptive, almost cinematic quality of their music, the two share somewhat similar stories as disenchanted mainstream music industry castaways who found independent success on hip-hop’s high seas.

Marci, of course, came up as a member of Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad—and his 2004 UN album, UN or U Out, was originally released on Carson Daly’s 456 Entertainment. Knowledge, on the other hand, got his big break after Will Smith’s former bodyguard, Charlie Mack, witnessed him battle. He eventually signed a deal with Teddy Riley and went on to record with Wreckx-N-Effect, Blackstreet, Nutta Butta and even Pharrell Williams—staking his claim as “the first gangster to rap over Neptunes’ beats” in his Twitter bio to this day. He has also stacked some major writing credits, working with artists like Will Smith. Recently, however, Knowledge mostly collaborates with Roc and a few other players in the budding renaissance of grimy New York shit.

Marci has implemented similar strategies when rolling out albums in the past, releasing them completely independently for a limited period of time before making them available on other distribution platforms—and Knowledge seems to have taken this approach to heart. With a Complex video premiere for his song “Long Gaze,” great reviews, a limited tape run that sold out within 24 hours and a special edition gold vinyl pressing that already sold out before its October drop date, the strategy has proven itself bountiful.

UGHH chopped it up with Knowledge about Flintlock and its independent release, his relationship with Roc Marciano, the state of New York hip-hop and his history as a ghostwriter.

Seems like Flintlock has been getting a great reception. After decades in the game, how does it feel to finally drop your debut album?

I feel like a proud father when his baby is being born.

Why the wait?

Because there wasn’t no money in it. The sound that we grew up on wasn’t relevant. Shit shifted down South, and I didn’t come into the game to give my art away for free, so I fell back until me and my brother Roc Marciano figured a way to monetize it and get money.

People say the reason New York fell off in the mainstream is ’cause cats don’t have unity here. Others think it’s ’cause a lot of New York artists started jackin’ other regions’ sounds. What’s your take on all that?

Both reasons—but we’re here to show the opposite, which is unity and staying true to our roots. That’s hip-hop.

You guys are often credited for bringing back that authentic New York sound. What do you think about the state of New York hip-hop, right now?

It’s looking great, ’cause we’re giving the people the blueprint to an authentic sound that is infinite. The future looks great.

A lot of your newer fans know you for your work with Roc Marciano, but you originally came up battlin’ cats in the ’90s… Any crazy battles worth mentioning?

Nah, a few famous niggas ducked me, but I won’t mention any names. My brother Rich brought me to meet Cassidy when he first signed to Swizz. We spit a few lines. It was around the end of my battle era and he was just coming in the game, and the boy was hard. Definitely one of the best to do it.

After you were discovered by Charlie Mack, you eventually did some work for Will Smith—which you’ve been pretty candid about in the past. You’ve also worked with Teddy Riley, Wreckx-N-Effect, Blackstreet and Nutta Butta, to name a few. What’s it like writing with or for dudes whose music is pretty different than your own?

Working with one of the world’s greatest producers like Teddy Riley was an honor and is one of the reasons I am the versatile artist that I am today.

Do you have to get out of your own mindset?

Nah, I just go to that creative place.

How did you get into ghostwriting? Did cats just hit you up like, “Yo, I like your flow. Can I buy some tracks?” Or did you go out actively looking for folks to shop tracks to.

Mostly unreleased music that they heard—or through word of mouth, and then we would end up collaborating together.

Write for anyone else you can mention?

Nah, I’d kind of like to keep that anonymous.

You’ve credited Roc Marci for kind of getting you back into the rap game when you took a little hiatus after the whole Teddy Riley situation… What is it about Roc that inspires you (and vice versa)?

Besides him being my brother [and] best friend, he’s one of the best lyricists [and] producers. I told him many moons ago, the only way I was gonna do this music shit was if he started producing more—and here we are. We have been inspiring each other to strive for greatness.

I notice y’all keep a tight circle, musically. Anybody you got your eyes on workin’ with in the future—whether producers or other emcees? Who, besides y’all, do you think is holdin’ the torch for New York right now?

I like to let things happen naturally, so you never know. As far as producers, I’d work with Alchemist, DJ Muggs and Large Professor. As far as names holding it down and pushing the culture forward: Westside Gunn, Conway, Benny, Mach-Hommy, Tha God Fahim, Action Bronson, Meyhem Lauren, etc. Keep up the great work.

You and Pharrell still in touch? Would you ever work with The Neptunes again?

Pharrell is my brother. We came up together. I haven’t spoken to him in a while, but that’s family and you never know what the future holds.

Can you tell us about the web series you’re about to drop?

No doubt. It’s called PIRATES… Briefly, it’s about the disenfranchised youth that come from dysfunctional homes and how they have no guidance except the streets and gangs because of the generation gap. The water flows under the bridge, and this is the birth of the PIRATES. Coming soon. This will be an epic, life-changing web series.

Why have you decided to only release the Flintlock download on your website?

Because artists get robbed for their art by streaming platforms and we like dealing directly with our fans—no middle man—so the whole experience becomes personal. We have the best fans in the world and it’s a blessing that they will go where we say to go buy our music.

Follow El Scribes on Twitter: @ElScribes.

BROWSE PRODUCTS FEATURING KNOWLEDGE IN THE UGHH STORE.

This Record Store Day, UGHH has decided to celebrate a hand-picked mix of still-active underground legends with recent releases, canonized underground icons and a couple of cult favorites—creating exclusive sale bundles to salute some of the artists who have made a significant impact on the culture. In doing so, we aim to illustrate underground hip-hop’s longevity—as well as its staying power.

There has been a lot of debate about the state of the underground, recently. Some believe that, thanks to internet technology and the power it gives independent artists to reach wider fan bases, the underground has become the new mainstream—while others attest that, as long as a corporate music industry controls the majority of what does and doesn’t become successful on a mainstream level (despite some exceptions), the underground will continue to exist. Although it is clear that exactly what the underground is has evolved since the polarized “Rawkus Era” of the late ’90s, when emcees were either “independent as fuck” (to quote Company Flow’s old motto) or soulless commercial puppets (with no in-between), we at UGHH subscribe to the ideology that being dubbed underground is more than just an indication of one’s financial status or level of notoriety—and know firsthand that, musically, the underground is very much alive and healthy.

 
Speaking of Rawkus Records, considering that it’s funding was actually provided by the son of Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, maybe the financial divide between underground and mainstream hip-hop was always a little more complex than once perceived. Regardless, unlike many mainstream artists (who tend to come and go, catering to a fickle corporate music industry that’ll sign and discard talent at the drop of a mixtape), underground emcees and producers often maintain longer, more influential careers. Just ask DOOM, Pharoahe Monch or El-P, to name a few—and try to remember all the one-hit wonders with platinum singles that came and went during the 30 odd years each have been in the game.

In the words of the great DJ Premier, who recently dropped his second PRhyme project with Royce Da 5’9” and remains as influential as ever: “Underground will live forever, baby. We just like roaches: never dyin’, always livin’…”

 

“And on that note, let’s get back to the program…” — Preemo

 

This year, underground Long Island legend Roc Marciano released the sequel to his gritty, soulful masterpiece Rosebudd’s Revenge, one of “UGHH’s Top 10 of 2017”—a contender for one of 2018’s best, as well. Though RR2: The Bitter Dose is only available to pre-order, the original joins his album with former group The UN, UN or U Out, his solo debut Marcberg, his sophomore release Reloaded and his 2013 mixtape The Pimpire Strikes Back in our Roc Marci vinyl bundle.

Having released one of this year’s strongest albums to date, we felt it only right to salute versatile Detroit producer and emcee Black Milk with a bundle. The CD version contains his three most recent joints: No Poison No Paradise, If There’s a Hell Below and, his latest, FEVER—as well as his collaborative project with Danny Brown, Black and Brown! Though FEVER is not yet available on wax, the vinyl bundle includes all of the other aforementioned albums, in addition to Tronic and Album of the Year.

One of the most consistent and celebrated artists the underground has ever spawned, London-born, Long Island-raised DOOM is a cultural icon. With over a dozen albums and collaborative projects under his belt, created using various aliases, the masked super villain has not slowed his conquest for world domination—releasing his most recent collaboration with Czarface this year. In our CD bundle, Czarface Meets Metal Face is offered alongside his fraternal group KMD’s Black Bastards, his solo debut Operation: Doomsday, Madvillainy (his Madvillain collaboration with Madlib), his sophomore album under the MF DOOM moniker, Mm.. Food, and The Mouse and the Mask (by DANGERDOOM, his group with Danger Mouse). In the vinyl bundle, Mm.. Food is replaced by KMD’s first album, Mr. Hood.

What is there to say about Detroit legend J Dilla that hasn’t already been said. Considered the G.O.A.T. by many, Dilla influenced an entire generation of producers—and his signature style has been emulated time and time again. One of the most original, timeless and universally-loved artists hip-hop has to offer, Jay Dee unquestionably made his mark on the game before passing in 2006. Our CD bundle includes his early work with Slum Village (Fan-Tas-Tic, Vol. 1 and Fantastic, Vol. 2), Ruff Draft and his Champion Sound album with Madlib (as Jaylib)—while the vinyl version swaps Donuts for Ruff Draft, and also includes posthumous releases The Shining and The Diary.

Before his untimely death in 2015, Brooklyn representative Sean Price had already become an underground icon in his own right. One of rap’s most consistent lyricists, his tongue-in-cheek wordplay and inimitable, pocketed flow earned him the number one spot on UGHH’s Top 10 of 2017″ list for his posthumous masterpiece Imperius Rex last year. Though he established himself as half of Heltah Skeltah and a member of the Boot Camp Clik, to celebrate his memory, we’ve created a vinyl bundle of his always-stellar solo studio projects: Monkey Barz, Jesus Price Supastar, Mic Tyson, Songs in the Key of Price and Imperius Rex.

Hailing from Connecticut, Apathy is a Northeastern fan-favorite who built a rep as part of the Demigodz crew. In 2017, he released the acclaimed self-titled Perestroika, a group project with D.I.T.C.’s own O.C., and followed it up with a solo offering this year. The Widow’s Son features a ridiculous cast of collaborators including Pharoahe Monch, M.O.P. and AG, as well as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Nottz and Buckwild on production—and both albums join Weekend at the Cape, The Black Lodge, Honkey Kong, Connecticut Casual, Handshakes With Snakes and Dive Medicine: Chapter 1 in our CD bundle, while the vinyl version excludes Weekend at the Cape, The Black Lodge and Honkey Kong.

Elusive, Bronx-bred trio the Juggaknots are true artists’ artists—revered by practically every emcee that arose from New York City’s underground hip-hop scene in the late ’90s. Though the all-sibling group of Breeze Brewin, Buddy Slim and Queen Herawin only release projects every decade or so, their existing two studio albums, Breeze’s starring role on Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves and some sporadic vinyl releases have managed to uphold the group’s legacy—despite most of their projects’ limited availability. Just last year, over 20 years after its release, a reissue of their classic self-titled debut flew off of UGHH’s shelves—so we decided to secure some rare 12″ vinyl singles (“She Loves Me Not,” “New $/Sumday,” “WKRP In NYC/Generally/J-Solo” and “Berzerkowitz”), as well as the even rarer CD mixtape The Love Deluxe Movement, straight from the source and offer them as part of our exclusive Juggaknots bundle.

Musically, 2017 was a great year for hip-hop. Contrary to tired arguments concerning the mumble rap phenomenon, real shit flourished this year—from both seasoned veterans and relative newcomers. In the mainstream, JAY-Z and Kendrick Lamar dropped stellar albums, arguably influenced by underground aesthetics. No I.D. laced 4:44 with some soulful, dusty, chopped up sample-driven beats that theoretically sound right at home within the underground landscape, as JAY spit some of the most thoughtful and relatable bars of his career. DAMN. featured Kung Fu Kenny’s impeccable artistry, drops by the legendary DJ Kid Capri and production by underground powerhouses 9th Wonder and the Alchemist. Even Action Bronson managed to keep his major label deal without crossing over or switching up his style, releasing his sophomore Atlantic Records project Blue Chips 7000 this year, as well.

But you already know about those albums. Instead of providing yet another bloated list of expected titles (sprinkled with a couple of offbeat selections for good measure), UGHH’s year-end wrap-up features a healthy mix of the 2017’s most celebrated independent releases, some overlooked gems, as well as an under-appreciated, yet a well-publicized joint or two (’cause we’re fair like that).

Disclaimer: UGHH primarily functions as an online record store, so we only considered LPs that are available for sale on our site. If we’d considered others, we might have included Conway’s G.O.A.T. project, The Seven by Talib Kweli and Styles P, Cashmere Dice by Da Villins & DJ Skizz or any one of the many other strictly digital underground releases that dropped this year. Also, lists are subjective by nature, so take this for what it is: a suggestion of dope shit to check out, if you haven’t already. Hit the forum if you think we forgot something more deserving.

10. Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$

Less dusty than his debut studio album, evolving young Joey Bada$$ still keeps it unequivocally hip-hop on his sophomore release. He also forays into overtly sociopolitical subject matter, tackling issues like police brutality and our nation’s abusive relationship with the Black community (metaphorically on the song “Y U Don’t Love Me? (Miss Amerikkka)”). A couple of our other favorite tracks are “Rockabye Baby” featuring ScHoolboy Q and “Super Predator” featuring Styles P.

9. Wu-Tang Clan – The Saga Continues

Though technically not all that underground, we still decided to include The Saga Continues on our list because we feel it deserves more credit than received in its generally mixed reviews. It’s important to remember that this isn’t a proper studio album; it’s really more of a producer project assembled by longtime Wu-affiliate Mathematics—who forged a sound somewhat reminiscent of 36 Chambers, only not as organic or raw (most likely a result of the process by which it was made). Still, the beats knock, all participating Wu members come correct and the refreshing nod to their roots should be appreciated by true Wu fans. In addition to new collaborators like the late Sean Price and Chris Rivers, longtime Wu associates grace the album, as well—including Streetlife and, most notably, Redman (who is featured on multiple songs). Some of its strongest joints are “Fast and Furious” featuring Hue Hef, “Pearl Harbor” featuring Sean Price, “G’d Up” featuring R-Mean and Mzee Jones, as well as “People Say” featuring Redman.

8. The Alchemist & Budgie – The Good Book, Vol. 2

The Good Book, Vol. 2 isn’t your typical producer album or beat tape. In fact, it’s a fusion of both, with only some of its songs featuring rappers. Furthermore, Alchemist produces one half of the project, while Budgie handles the other, resulting in a Grindhouse-like double feature made cohesive by the fact that both sides are composed using samples of religious-themed music (the double CD even comes packed in a Bible-shaped case). Alchemist rains down the fire and brimstone—providing some grimy, soulful, chopped-up, minimalist raw shit to scrunch your face to—and Budgie supplies a juxtaposing funky, R&B-driven vibe that’ll have you clapping your hands harder than the congregation. “A Thousand Birds” featuring Conway and Westside Gunn, “Message For The People” featuring Durag Dynasty, “Pray For You” featuring Royce Da 5’9” and “Looking for a Blessing” are some of Alchemist’s toughest tracks, while Budgie shines on “Ride For Me” featuring Traffic and Dreebo, “By My Side” featuring Evidence and “Bel Air Baptism.”

7. Statik Selektah – 8

Statik Selektah accomplishes the near-impossible with his eighth studio album by achieving a perfectly balanced polished, yet gritty sound. He also bridges gaps, featuring a diverse mix of emcees representing different schools of hip-hop—from legendary to emerging and underground to mainstream—all over his signature jazzy, boom bap production. The LP’s standout cuts include “Put Jewels On It” featuring Run The Jewels, “But You Don’t Hear Me Tho” featuring The Lox and Mtume, “No. 8” featuring Conway, Westside Gunn and Termanology, “Go Gettas” featuring Sean Price, Wais P and Tek, “Nobody Move” featuring Raekwon and Royce Da 5’9″ and “Disrespekt” featuring Prodigy (who we tragically lost this year).

6. Milano Constantine – The Way We Were

Perhaps one of 2017’s more slept-on bangers, this is one of those rare albums you can listen to over and over again without having to skip a single song. From start to finish, DJ Skizz and Marco Polo lay down a boom bap soundtrack that’ll make you nod your head so hard you’ll need a neck brace—on which the D.I.T.C.-affiliated “Barbaric” MC evokes Golden Era New York rap, reminiscing on “The Way We Were,” but without feeling tiresome or gimmicky. This is that shit to reverse gentrification. Our favorite joints include “British Walkers,” “Cocaina” and “Rasclat” featuring Big Twins and Conway.

5. Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom

Some might argue that its Grammy nomination should automatically exclude Laila’s Wisdom from our list, but considering the extensive dues Rapsody has paid in the underground (and the overall quality of her work), we felt it not only appropriate, but necessary to include this album. Featuring production from underground staples and longtime collaborators 9th Wonder, Nottz and Khrysis, the LP is a soulful sonic masterpiece—and, as always, the Jamla artist delivers pensive, poignant, razor-sharp rhymes in her distinguishable Southern drawl. She really goes in on songs like “Chrome (Like Ooh),” “Black & Ugly” featuring BJ the Chicago Kid, “You Should Know” featuring Busta Rhymes, “OooWee” featuring Anderson .Paak and “Nobody” featuring Anderson .Paak, Black Thought and Moonchild, as well as the album’s title track.

4. Roc Marciano – Rosebudd’s Revenge

When Roc Marciano emphatically states, “Motherfucker, this is art,” he isn’t lying. One of hip-hop’s most imaginatively twisted minds, Marciano vividly depicts familiar, grimy, street visuals in an entirely original style. On Rosebudd’s Revenge, the MC pimp-struts the line between insanity and genius over bare-boned, largely self-produced beats that effectively showcase his laid-back, monotone flow. Though often pegged as a storyteller, he doesn’t simply tell tales. Instead, Marci himself is the story. “History,” “Better Know,” “Gunsense,” “Marksmen” featuring Ka, “Pimp Arrest” and “Here I Am” are among the album’s most memorable tracks.

3. Meyhem Lauren & DJ Muggs – Gems From The Equinox

On Gems From The Equinox, DJ Muggs varies between minimalist and boom bap production techniques, driven by heavily altered and distorted samples that range from soulful and funky to ominous and menacing—a style that pairs nicely with Meyhem Lauren’s baritone vocal timbre. Slightly experimental and almost psychedelic, the combination of vibes results in an overall trippy listening experience that manages to sound both classic and visionary at the same time. Some of the LP’s defining cuts include “Camel Crush,” “Hashashin” featuring Conway, “Aquatic Violence” featuring Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire and Sean Price, “Redrum” and “Tension” featuring Action Bronson and Muggs’ Cypress Hill group-mate B-Real.

2. Planet Asia & Apollo Brown – Anchovies

Planet Asia and Apollo Brown are both in rare form on their beautiful collaborative effort. An immaculate blend of streetwise raps and stripped-down production, Brown shows just how much can be done with sampling alone—composing a symphonic experience void of added drums, relying solely on the source material for percussion. The result compliments Asia’s poetically aggressive lyrics and stream-of-consciousness style, helping his vocals shine. Another strong showing for the minimalist movement, Anchovies’ bars and beats are in perfect harmony. “Panties in a Jumble,” “The Aura,” “Dalai Lama Slang” featuring Willie the Kid, “Deep in the Casket,” “Fire” featuring Tristate and “Nine Steamin’” featuring Guilty Simpson are a few of our favorite tracks.

1. Sean Price – Imperius Rex

Despite having passed two years ago, Sean Price proved to be hip-hop’s MVP in 2017. Besides appearing on a few of this list’s entries (as well as a couple of the year’s other prominent releases), he also dropped one of 2017’s best albums, hands down. P’s posthumous masterpiece Imperius Rex sounds as deliberate and thought-out as any of his traditional studio releases, and features some of his most exciting work to date. On “Clans & Cliks,” two of hip-hop’s most respected super groups—Wu-Tang Clan and Boot Camp Clik—form an alliance that would extend to other 2017 releases by P’s Heltah Skeltah group-mate Rock (Rockness A.P.) and Wu-Tang’s Masta Killa (Loyalty is Royalty), as well as Wu’s aforementioned project (The Saga Continues). Imperius Rex also pairs Ruck with other legends like Prodigy and Styles P on “The 3 Lyrical Ps,” as well as DOOM on “Negus.” Of course, his Boot Camp brethren and a few other longtime associates are featured, as well—while Alchemist, Nottz, Harry Fraud and Marco Polo are among those who bless it with hard-hitting boom bap beats. Regardless, P spits some of his most memorable bars on solo offerings like “Definition of God,” “Rap Professor,” “Refrigerator P!” and the title track. Imperius Rex is full of straight bangers, back to back, from one of the underground’s most prolific artists—earning it the number one spot on our list. riP!

Follow El Scribes on Twitter: @ElScribes.

Speak your piece in the comments below or at the UGHH Forums.

Roc Marciano’s rap career has been longstanding, but solo-wise, it seems like the veteran emcee has a lot more gas in the tank. He made his landmark debut with Marcberg LP in 2010 and since then, his music’s been one of the preeminent hubs for really grimy New York street rap and/or delicately crafted word-schemes that reveal obscure, yet appropriate metaphorical references.

Citations of everyone from Anna Kournikova to Gloria Estefan litter the verses of the Hempstead, Long Island native’s recently released Rosebudd’s Revenge album. The wordplay is perhaps its most notable element and fits in perfectly with Marci’s eerie and heavily sample-driven instrumentals, some of which are provided by the emcee himself.

It’s been four years since the release of Marci Beaucoup, his generally well-received last LP. Since then, Marciano’s been experiencing life and sharpening his wordplay all while recording.

During a recent interview with UGHH, Roc Marci detailed putting together his latest work, among other topics. He says his recording process is natural with how he lives his life. His everyday experiences simply inspire what later ends up on wax. “Push the pen with a vengeance” is how he’d describe it.

What’s been up recently besides strictly music-based stuff?

Outside of music, I got a couple of business-side things. I’ve got a couple things coming in the tech world. [I’m] living life, you know, family and stuff like that, so yeah. I’ve got a couple of things coming outside of music.

You put out Rosebudd’s Revenge in February. It’s been bumping in my headphones and the whip for the last two weeks or so. How has the reaction to it been so far from what you’ve seen?

It’s been very positive, man. I’ve got no complaints.

This is your first project since 2013 with Marci Beaucoup. How has this almost four-year gap provided you the experiences necessary to put out a project like this?

I feel like I get better every day. It all depends if I’m in the recording mode. I’m not always in recording mode. I recorded a lot of music while I wasn’t putting out music. I was completing other projects and things I’ve been working on. I started on Rosebudd’s Revenge and then I stopped, and then jumped back in it and finished it in probably like a couple weeks or something.

You’re also a producer as well, so how much does that affect your mindset when another producer is working with you. Is it more bouncing off ideas and then you both come together with it?

I let everybody do they thing, man. We just compare notes. Pass tracks back-and-forth like, “This is what I’m on.” Then they say, “This is what I’m on.” Then we kind of start to figure it out like, “Ok, this is where you’re going, aiight.” I kind of give them a vibe and they send me something, and I’m like, “Right around here is where I’m trying to bake.” We just communicate through it and put beats away and join styles and just compare notes. It’s kind of simple.

On “Marksmen” you feature Ka—someone you’ve worked with a lot over the years—and I think you two on a track together is perfect because you have similar styles but different content and different flows. You also challenge each other to do something a little different when you’re on a song together. Talk about that relationship and how you work creatively when you’re in the booth together.

Working with Ka. Hmm. I mean you know, Ka’s incredible, man. I’ve felt like that since the first time I heard him. It’s just always a pleasure working with somebody that you know is going to deliver, so I really can’t say much more about it ‘cause it’s like working with family. It’s actually just fun. We push each other. It’s not like who’s going to get off on who or nothing like that. It’s just like, “Yo, let’s just do a fly joint.”

He does always bring the bars, so how much does that affect—not even in a competition way—how you prepare when doing a song together?

I think with my history of my bars, I don’t have to be pushed by anybody. Bar for bar, I don’t really have nothing to prove. My discography speaks for itself. I don’t really feel I need to compete. I just do what I do and that’s that, you know what I’m saying?

Where do you see yourself at this point in your career and how have you grown from Flipmode Squad in the late ‘90s to your earlier solo material like Marcberg to now in 2017 with Rosebudd’s Revenge?

I feel great. I definitely have made history. I brought a lot of game to the game, made a nice amount of money doing what I love to do. It’s a success story coming from where I come from. I feel great. What more can I say? I’m blessed.

The first time I heard you as a solo artist was on GZA’s “Short Race” from Pro Tools. You, in your own production, use a lot of very obscure samples within some of your best songs, which is almost RZA-esque. Obviously Wu-Tang means a lot being an emcee from New York, but how specifically did they inspire you when you were beginning to rap?

[They were a] tremendous influence. Wu-Tang Clan, them the older gods. That’s part of the foundation. That’s how I feel about the Clan, man. I got a lot of love for them.

When you put out music what do you want people to take away from it even if they spin your new project just once?

I just want them to enjoy it. Enjoy it. Take it for what it is. I’m not trying to school n***as all day. I’m trying to enjoy myself. I love what I do. If brothas digging it, if they can ride to it, good. It’s really that simple to me. I don’t really put more thought into it than that.

I like the instrumental switch-ups you offer on this project within songs. You did it with your “Rosebudd’s Revenge Part. 1” video, but it’s really prevalent in “Herringbone” and “Pray 4 Me.” What was the inspiration behind that because you don’t see that that much these days?

I do that because that’s fun. It keeps things interesting. That’s pretty much why I do it. It’s pretty much like hip-hop meets progressive rock, right? “You never know what might happen” kind of shit in a song so, I do it ‘cause that’s fun.

When you hear a sample that provides something different, how do you determine its value for a song? Like what makes you go, “Oooh, that’s gotta be in something”?

It’s really about if it matches what I’m trying to say, what I’m feeling at the time. I make a lot of beats when I’m making beats. I’ll get a bunch of records and make a lot of beats because I don’t make beats all the time. I’m kind of going through the records, and I’m taking visual photos so to speak. Anything that stands out to me, I’ll fuck with it. I put all those notes to the side and I’ll go through them and depending on how I’m feeling that day, I put the beats on like clothes. That’s how I’m feeling today, so I’m going to jump on this.

You were on De La Soul’s album last year via “Property of Spitkicker.com.” What did it mean to be a part of not just a legendary group’s LP, but also being on one that got high praise?

I’ve always been a De La Soul fan, man. I feel like they’re part of the foundation to me also. I look at those dudes like those guys are big brothers in the game. I get a lot of inspiration from De La Soul. They make some of my favorite music in life so for those brothers to reach out for me to spit on something, do a record, what can I say? I’m honored, man. Calls like that, that’s what it’s all about.

What’s your relationship like with Busta Rhymes currently? Do you guys still keep up with one another?

Busta, that’s my brother. I was just with Busta not long ago. Probably like two weeks ago I was on set of his video. We was shooting a video out in Cali. He got some new shit ready to drop. It’s crazy. That’s my brother, man. I fucks with Bus real heavy.

I know you’re a big NBA fan, Knicks fan. The big story now is Phil Jackson’s missteps this season. I love asking New Yorkers about the direction of the Knicks since it’s been a while since they’ve had success?

Ah man, you had to go there [laughs].

[laughs]

It starts in the front office, man. That’s all I can say. It’s time to clean house. We need a clean slate. Shit is worse than it’s damn near ever been. What more can you do? You got to scrap it and start over. That’s all I can say about it. Shit is a bust right now, unfortunately. I love my Knicks, but it ain’t nothing to talk about. It ain’t even a story right now.

Does Carmelo Anthony have to go as a part of starting over?

Honestly, I feel like if Melo wants to leave and wants to win of course he’s got to go ‘cause he ain’t gonna win here. I think Melo should go. I want Melo to win. When they was trying to do that trade with the Cavs, I wanted it to go down to see him get a chance to win. We need to just scrap everything. Keep Kristaps [Porzingis]. I like [Willy] Hernangómez, I like [Mindaugas] Kuzminskas. We got some good young players but we need to do something with the rest of the organization. The front office needs to get some of those people out and put Melo on a championship team. That would be good for him. We in a rebuilding process right now.

I live in Ohio and am a Cavaliers fan. We weren’t too sure about getting Melo, especially if it meant giving up Kevin Love…

Melo’s firepower. No matter how you slice it. Melo is firepower, and it look like with [Kevin] Durant on the floor, you could use an extra gun.

Right. I can see that. Lastly though, what’s next for you now that the album’s out and the people have it?

There’s a lot more music to come. I’ve got more visuals, things like that, staying busy. As for touring, when it warms up, I’m going to go out on the road, touch a few spots. That’s pretty much it.

Listen to Roc Marciano’s Rosebudd’s Revenge album below and purchase it here.

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