Sunday, July 13, 2008
Hail the Words of Isis - An Interview with LinQue (Part 2)
...continued from part 1.
So, how did you wind up on Ruffhouse?
You know, Lyte with her genius. She sent my stuff everywhere. She was like, "What are you up to?" And I was recording and said I had a song, and she heard it and was like, "yo, I can get you a deal." I was like, "what? Get me a deal?" So she said, "just give me a chance," and she put this stuff out to everybody. And a woman named Rose at Ruffhouse/Columbia called and said, "hey, we want you to come in; we like what we hear." And I was extremely excited because the roster of Ruffhouse at that point was Cypress Hill, Kriss Kross… they had The Fugees and Nas at some point, but it was definitely one of those things where they had a roster of artists that was different. It was different. It wasn't just signing people that sounded like somebody else. It was definitely innovative and trend-setters, as opposed to being trendy. It was a great opportunity for me, and it worked while it worked, you know? Like, I had an album deal, but the industry at that point was changing, it was very much changing. And as a female emcee, I don't think female emcees get their right due now. It was a process. But as a female emcee during that timeframe, we were going from the baggy jeans and having a voice in hip-hop to more of a sexual thing. And I had to make a decision: am I going to conform to what they want me to be, or am I going to be who I am?
And sometimes with these record labels, it gets to the point where they want to sign you… and they sign you, but then they want to change you. I just never understood that. But one of the biggest things I had to learn was that this is a business. It was hard for me to accept that, but this is a business not of making music. This is a business of making money. Period. At that point, with Ruffhouse… it was really more the sexual thing with Elektra. I just think they didn't understand me. I think that the turn of the female emcee was in the midst of that, but I think they just didn't understand me. I think it would've been easier for them if I was more of a mainstream pop emcee, which I wasn't.
Well, and with the East/West thing… they seemed to have a pretty big roster, and they kind of lost them all at once.
That's the thing! You know, honestly, I think people are just tax write-offs. It works! They're like tax write-offs, you know. And with the majors, it used to be all about being on a major. I used to get so happy, "oh my god; I'm on a major!" It was this big thing where you got to go to this big building and they're sending limos, which you know, you're paying for. And there's all this crap. But at the same time, there's pros and cons to it. Because, guess what? If I'm on Asylum/East West/Elektra/WEA, they have R&B and if somebody like Mariah's coming out? Guess what? You're ass out.
My thing today is that I love being independent; I love calling the shots. But I would love a situation where it's an authentic thing, like 4th and Broadway. Because Chris Blackwell had something really special there. Because he had all this money, but he also believed in the stuff he was putting out there. You know, Eric B & Rakim was on there, Tone Loc. You had so much real music, and I just kinda miss that.
It just kind of struck me, as an outsider to the whole East/West thing, that maybe there was a shift in ownership or a whole group of people got fired. Because they had developed what seemed like a whole hip-hop wing of exciting artists - like Omniscience, SuperNatural, 8-Off…
Yeah, and it seemed they gathered them all at once, and they lost them all at once.
You know, there's so many things that go on behind the scenes, whether they're changing staff or so many things that come into the politics, I couldn't even pinpoint what it was. I just know that I was one of the people that got dropped.
I did my whole album, and they didn't hear quote/unquote "the single." They didn't hear the single; and that's when I went into the studio and I wrote "Let It Fall." And they loved "Let It Fall."
So you did that after you'd finished the album already?
Right. 'Cause they didn't hear the single. So I did "Let It Fall," and "Let It Fall" was about the record company. That's what they loved! The irony is that's what they loved. And for me, having the three album deals and people only hearing one album has sort of typecast me to degree. 'Cause people remember me as Isis… and then they remember"This Is It" and "Rip It Up;" and then they remember "Let It Fall." But the thing is, people remember the singles that people thought were mainstream for me. Those are the ones that the record labels picked, as opposed to the meat of my artistry. I had songs that, to me, would've touched peoples' hearts, not just make them dance. So people, they want to hear "Let It Fall," whereas Godspeed for me has been such a long time coming, and it's almost like projectile vomiting. I can't wait 'till the next album, because that was like vomiting almost, because I'd been holding it in for so long. And boom! here is Godspeed. So I think the next album from me is gonna be coming from a calmer place. I don't know if "calmer"'s the right word; but it's not gonna be about me feeling stifled and this is what I wanna do.
And what happened to those two, unreleased albums? Do you have those?
I actually have them. I have them, but they belong to the record companies. I mean, they paid for them. I received a lot of money in this time period, just not the support. And after I got dropped from Elektra, Lyte was just like, "Lin, let's go get another record deal;" and I just couldn't do it anymore. I know it's great that they give you money, but it's not about that. I'm an artist, I feel like I'm stifled. I ned to express myself and I need a record label that's gonna support that, not need me to rhyme about my lips or some crazy shit. I just don't have time for that.
So I guess that means it'd be difficult for you to release those albums now?
Well, I don't know. There might be a statute where it's been like seven years, or ten years, and they go back to me… Or, honestly, I have no idea. I know people ask me that all the time, like, "yo, Lin, you should just put it out there." But it's funny, because I put my stuff on Youtube, like "Rebel Soul" and "The Power of Myself Is Moving," and I have my other ones. And the record companies are trying to say, "she can't put them on there!" Or, "it's ok, I'm giving her permission to put it on there, but I want to advertise on her pages." It's like they've still got their hands in my pocket, and it's years later!
Yeah, because this is a year - and 2007 somewhat, too - where a lot of older stuff is getting released for the first time, or getting re-released. Like I think audiences have shown they're really open for the lost music to come out allthese years later.
Actually, you might've sparked something. Because that might be something the record companies might be interested in doing. It's no skin off of their's; it's already done. It's not like they have to put any money into it. I mean, if they wanted to, they could do some promotion, but it's not like I need a budget - an album budget. It's already done.
Yeah, because you certainly could press up at least a limited run and easily sell out.
Exactly. So you might've sparked something.
So, then when you came out of Elektra, one of the other emcees who got dropped from them was Champ MC…
Yes! Oh, yes. And that's one of the main reasons I joined Five Deadly Venoms. Because we were always on tour, and already had a chance to vibe with Champ. And she's cool. She's a female emcee, she's hard with it, she can write, she can rhyme. So when they came up to me and was like, "hey Lin, we have this new group called the Five Deadly Venoms, and we'd love for you to be the fifth one - the flame thrower. And we're shooting a video tomorrow; would you like to come down?" And I was like, well, what other girls do you have? And they said Finesse of Finesse and Synquis who I remembered but didn't really met her before. And they had N-Tyce, who worked with Method Man and Wu before. And they had this girl named J-Boo who was a newjack from Queensbridge, but she could hold her own. And then they said Champ; and I said, "Champ? Cool! Let me come down, and let me see what's good." And what I loved about the situation was that it was a type of Wu-Tang situation where you could be down with the group, but you're really a soloist. That I loved, because I always love to maintain my own persona, and I'm on my own agenda anyway for what I wanna do with my art.
So when I joined them, I was in the "Bomb Threat" video and we worked together for a long time. We were doing shows every week. Every weekend, we would be going out and traveling. And the crazy thing is, due to business reasons, it just never worked out. We had an album deal, on A&M Records, and they just weren't going to give me what I wanted. So I had to kind of go about my business.
It seemed like The Deadly Venoms floated around a lot of labels, without really getting much out.
Well, here's the thing. I hate to say it, because I could be wrong, but… well, this is not wrong: beinga female emcee is fucking hard. It's hard because this particular genre of music is misogynistic, it's stereotypical, it's male-dominated, and when it comes to females, they'd rather see you than hear you. It seems. That's what I mean, I don't know if I'm right or not. Because I ask people: does every woman in your life have to be wifey? Can you listen to your sister, your mom, your daughters? You know, do you hold these conversations? Because it seems as though, when it comes to hip-hop, they only wanna see one thing when it comes to females.
I don't know if you had a chance to see that thing they had on BET: Hip-Hop vs. America 2?
No, I haven't seen it.
Oh my god. If you get a chance, it's online. It's three parts, hosted by Lyte and a gentlemen I forget his name. It's all panels. If you're a true hip-hopper, it's some shit you need to see. But it talks about the misogyny and how female emcees went from having a voice to having a pole. It's sad because we're in a business, like I said; when it comes down to it, it's about making money in this business. And so these record labels are going to sign you if you can make them some money.
Da Brat was actually the first female to go platinum. It took a decade, over a decade, for a female to go platinum. Ok? This was after Latifah, Lyte, Monie, Sparky D. Now Salt-N-Pepa went platinum, but they're a duo and they were pop music. It was hip-hop, but more of a mainstream thing. But Da Brat, after a decade, was the first female to go platinum. You know, it's just progressed to where you have no female emcees representing. I mean, don't get me wrong, there are people there. But now Remy's in jail, Eve is doing acting. And Eve, to me, was like the baby Lyte. Her songs had purpose, messages, it wasn't just about shaking your ass and stuff like that. We need that. We need the Lauryn Hills. But it almost seems that the door is closed, and unless you're willing to cross that line, which is - for a female - ok, I have to sell myself through sex. I have to pretty much whore myself. And the smart ones will have to pretty much whore myself and have principles, whatever the fuck that means!
And it's hard for a person like me, because this is my life… this is what I love to do. But I've had to let go of that, and it's painful. It's painful because I feel like this is what I'm meant to do in life, but I've had to do it independently, which is hard. I don't have money like majors, so I'm not where I would like to be right now. People don't hear my music where they need to hear it, you know? It's only if you are on of those true hip-hoppers that goes fishing on the internet, or you stay on top of things. But as far as marketing and promotion that's gonna go overseas and get big, big, big - I don't know females that get that type of attention. Unless they're doing some crazy shit.
That or they're part of a crew, like if G-Unit picked somebody and said, "this is our female MC."
Right. And if you think about it, most - and I man most, like 95% - female emcees have come out on the credibility of a man. Period. Even Isis - from X-Clan. Lyte - Audio Two. Remy - Terror Squad. Rah Digga - Flipmode. That's it. Missy's pretty much the only one, but Missy had her foot already in the door, because she was writing for big people. It's already been on the credibility of a man who's sold already in the past. It's never been about, "oh, this woman's great, let me sign her." They have no idea, really.
So, is that what labels are asking you first, like what crews are you down with?
I actually think a man would actually have to go in there with your demo, as opposed to you going. I don't think you could go and be like, "hey, I'm down with Terror Squad!" I don't think you'd even get a meeting. You know what I'm saying? Fat Joe's gotta go in there and say, "yo, I've got this chick. She's dope; I'm co-signing this shit, and that's that." Except L'il Mama, I don't think she's down with anybody. But we're talking about the difference between an entertainer and an emcee. Like, where's the last Lauryn Hill, a female who has mainstream appeal but is actually a lyricist?
And of course Lauryn Hill started that way, too, with the men from the Fugees.
Exactly. So it's hard, as a female emcee… it's a toss up. And I used to say, "no, it's not," because that's how I felt back then. Because then I had the support of my brothers, you know? X-Clan, Blackwatch… But especially now, when it's a complete draught. It's an extinction almost. There are no female emcees out there that's sayin' shit. And this is no disrespect to anybody from before, because I'm talking about the present moment right now. Who is representing hip-hop right now as a female?
Although, it seems right now there aren't many men doing it either.
Yeah, no. You're right. Because, right now, where are your male lyricists? Lyricists. I'm not talking about no dance music, no pop music. I'm talking about that shit that makes you go home and listen to it over and over again, and you're not dancing. Just like, "oh shit!" You're blown away, you know what I mean? Where is that? So if that's not there on the male agenda, you know it's not there on the female agenda… because how much percentage are we anyway, when it comes to hip-hop? I think a lot of people think it happened, and that's it.
And I think you have that in every genre of music: jazz, rock, r&b. You start out with music with that authentic vibe, it hasn't been touched or violated; and that's because it hasn't gone platinum yet. And once it goes platinum, that's it. They keep that formula and that's it - this is how it has to be. I mean, if I hear another hip-hop/r&b song that sounds the same… it's like, "my god!" The beat's the same, the lyrics are the same. Jeez, I can't do it.
Well, it's interesting, because you've done some guest verses, etc on some r&b…
So, for you, is that just like an unfortunate compromise, or…?
No, no, no. I haven't done that much. I've done stuff with Mary J. Blige, this is back then: "You Bring Me Joy" remix. And I've worked with Monifah, although you guys haven't heard it yet (it'll come out soon). She's an artist I llok up to and have enormous respect for. It doesn't mean that if there's an artist out there who I don't consider an "artist," but more of an entertainer, that I wouldn't do it. But I just wanna get out of this kind of monotony. …I think that any track I'm gonna be on, I'm gonna stop the monotony anyway. I don't care who it is. It's just my style and the way I approach a beat. But when you think about it, across the board, when it comes to r&b or whatever, it is stagnated. It's all about the money. It takes the heartbeat out of the music. You know, music saved my life when I was little. If I didn't have that shit, I don't know… I don't know. I don't know where I might be. I might be dead, in jail, I don't know. Seriously, it like calms the beast for real. So, these young kids now, I feel bad for them. Because they're being short-changed and they don't even know it.
Let me ask you this: do you remember doing a song with DJ Bazarro and the Dysfunkshunal Familee?
Ah, that's so crazy because I saw DJ Bazarro just the other day, because I'm down with the Stop the Violence Movement music with Krs-One. So I just saw his face the other day. Now, I don't remember. How long ago was this?
I think it was around '95 or so?
Oh my god, I don't know. Now I've done so many different things here and there, especially after I left Elektra. Or after I got dropped from Elektra… after they left me! After that, I did so many different things; and you're talking about the 90's, it's a blur.
Well, one of the biggest ones I know of is the one with Finsta.
Oh wow! You really are a true hip-hopper. You're talking about "It's Uzelezz," which is something we did here, but it was for overseas. And Evil Dee, I believe, did the beat. I think. Did Evil Dee do the beat?
Well, there's two versions, actually. I think he did the remix.
Oh. You know more than me, and I'm on it! I'm gonna have to call you. I didn't even know there's two versions; I only heard one. Wow. Then, you would've loved the stuff I did with Five Deadly Venoms. Like, there was a song we recorded with Kurupt that was hot.
Oh, I think that did come out. I've seen a 12" around by Deadly Venoms with Kurupt.
Yeah, but I'm not on there. That's different.
Well, speaking of different versions of Deadly Venoms… how much of what's out there was legit, versus like bootlegged or whatever?
"Bootlegged?" What do you mean?
Well, like with the Echo stuff? Like I know they put out a bunch of Sunz of Man material and a Shabazz the Disciple EP as well as Deadly Venoms… and when I interviewed Shabazz, he said flat out that he felt they had no rights to the material, and it was all bootlegged.
No, I hadn't heard. I left by then… I have no idea.
And what's that video I saw you put out, "Breathe, Spit, Don't Stop?" I don't think it's on the album…
That was something I recorded just to put out there. I recorded that with Ayatollah, who's worked with Tupac and so many others; he's real authentic. We put that online, just to put it out there. Because I haven't been doing shows like I'm supposed to be doing. And the reason for that is becauseI'm looking for a DJ, and it's been horrific. No, really. Horrific. Today they don't realize that DJs bring something to the table. They don't just push a button. On interviews I've been doing with DJs, and they can't mix a record! DJing is one of the core elements of hip-hop, and today they don't know. Plus there were family issues, my dad got sick, out of commission, and I've had to attend to that. But now I've just finally found a DJ who can really do that and add something. Because that's what I like! A DJ who can add to the shows and be a part of it. His name is Sugar Ray, with Torn Styles, so I'm going to start doing shows. And also we've got another video we're about to shoot, too, called "Nothing's Changed." That's about to come out. Because this new material has been a long time coming.
The album's called Godspeed for a reason.
So, if you guys want to pick up Godspeed, it's available of course in the usual Itunes-type places as a download, but there are real, hard copies available, too, at CDBaby. Of course, Lin Que has a myspace, so you can drop by there and check out her music. She has also has her own, decked out official website at Lin-Que.com, so be sure to drop by there as well.