Friday, March 13, 2009

Return To the Realm of the Mystics - UG Interview

The Cella Dwellas was one of the illest lyrical groups in the 90's that put out a few hot records, but never really got the chance to do everything they could do. Well, now UG (a.k.a. Lan Outlaw) is coming back to set that record straight, with his own label, Spaz Out Entertainment (here's a link to his myspace).

Well, let's begin with how the Cella Dwellas formed… wasn't there a third member at one time? I remember some press releases referencing…


Oh yeah. It actually wasn't a third member, just when you run with a group of people… it was a person that we had with us named Lord Have Mercy.

Lord Have Mercy from Flipmode?

Yes. My partner had actually got him signed with Busta's management. We also had got him a situation with Das EFX and them: The Hit Squad. That was like the third member of the group.

Yeah, because I think I remember the press release stating that you each represented, like, different elements, and he represented robotics.

Right. It was the mystics, the hypnotics and the robotics. It was three - 'cause we were called Realm 3 and it was three realms represented the Realm 3 camp.

And did you guys ever record anything like that? I mean, I know there wasn't a record as Realm 3, but did you ever record demos, or…?

Well, what happened is the first record we had recorded was "Duck, Duck, Goose." That was the first time that all three of us had recorded. And as we recorded the record and laid it down… throughout the process of recording the album, we offered the third member some money. We were like, "yo, let's do this. Let's get you on a record; let's get you some money." He was like, "nah, nah, I'll just do it for free;" we were like, "nah, let's get you some money."

You know, so we got him some money. And that's when my partner got Busta to manage him and put him down with Flipmode. We were like, "yo, you need your own situation. We're close with Bus; why don't you go over there?" Because prior to that I had got him signed to Hit Squad, and whatever happened, the situation between him and them got messed up.

Then, when he got signed to Flipmode, after he got done recording the verse for the album, I guess he had a talk with Busta. After that, he came back to me and Phantasm and said, "Busta said I should get some more money." And we were just saying to ourselves, "you wanted to do it for free at first!" We told him, "we got you some money, now towards the end of the album, you're down with Flipmode and Busta told you that you need some more money, you come over here." So we clipped that song from the album. That song was never released. But I have it.

Man, I'd love to hear that. It would be great if you could put that out somehow…

Well, what I'ma do… I've got a bunch of Dwella songs that never got released, so I'm trying to put that together right now.

And then, the situation after that, it kinda turned. Not for the worse, but he went his way and we went our way. Because Lord, he was headstrong. He wanted to be the leader and so forth, and as a group we were just like no leaders. We represented three realms, and that's just that. But you know how people get, you go through the politics, the industry, you smell a little success, you run with the people that are successful, and it kinda changes you if you don't have nobody to level you out.

Yeah, actually, listening to Lord Have Mercy, especially his early material, you can hear in his flow and his lyrical style how he could be a part of the same group as you guys.

Well, to tell you the truth, when I first met Phantasm, he wasn't an original Cella Dwellas member. There was a person that was before him even. And him and Lord wanted to manage me or produce for us. And the person I was with went to play football overseas, and I was doin' it by myself. And when I met Lord and Phantasm, their whole style was totally different. Phantasm was Special Ed-ish, and Lord was Special Ed-ish with 'im. So when I started talking about dragons and casting spells and stuff like that, it was something new to them, and they were like, "yo, let's ride this!" And that's how they got involved with the mystics, the hypnotics and the robotics. They got that through me. That's why everything was so similar, because we were always together, and they were like, "yo, let me hear that!" And I would rhyme the castle, large winds… stuff like that and they were like, "yo, that's kinda crazy." I was like, "since it's something new, let's all just ride it." And that's how that happened.

Yeah; speaking of that, I feel like you guys kinda got caught out there a little bit... that you guys were coming out with something really creative and then the whole "horrorcore" fad blew up around you guys. So it kinda got tarnished with this brush of being corny because of all these new horrorcore artists coming up all of a sudden…

Well, you know what it was also? LOUD back then was made up more of fans than people that wanted to work records. And they had the PRs and the street teams, and they were Wu-Tang stans. LOUD at that point was just like, "let's throw this out and see if this sticks." So we had to go out on the road and do shows on our own and support our own album, and sell 250,000 copies on our own. It was sort of a lean towards Wu. And Wu was crazy, they were doing their thing; but as a label I always thought when you put a project out, you're supposed to push everything equally. If Wu is taking off, then you don't have to push them anymore.

We were on the road with The Liks, The Mobb before "Shook Ones" blew… and then they blew. So they didn't need the push no more because the record was pushing itself. And the Liks got into their little altercations with the record labels, and the stations didn't want to have them up their because their name was Tha Alkaholiks. So they had their issues, but we just always thought that we didn't get that direct push.

Now we were doing shows; we were demolishing headliners! The underground fans were coming out and we were demolishing people. That's how we started to sell units on our own. You know? So the first album passed, the second album came, and they started to realize that they had something. I just thing we were ahead of our time with that.

And with the whole horrorcore situation, their style was similar to ours. I met Russell Simmons nephew. They came to our shows... I seen these dudes at our shows, like, "yo, y'all style is crazy!" And then next thing you know, "horrorcore" pops up! They decided to change the mystics stuff around to horror, and I don't know if Russell Simmons thought it was gonna be a good idea, but you know… You can tell when a person's not real with what they're speaking or they're spitting. So a lot of people wasn't believing that crap.

Same thing happened when RZA and the others had, what was the name of that group?

Gravediggaz?

There you go. And they tried to do the same thing! And they did it for a minute, but then they wound up breaking up. You know, it was crazy, but a lot of things stemmed from that style. But that's the one thing I didn't like, because, you know, I took time with the lyrics. We weren't just trying to rhyme over records, we were trying to paint pictures then.

And then Inspectah Deck got his deal with LOUD, and Phan brought up that we need to get a solo deal, because everybody's breaking off and getting a solo deal, let's try to see if we could do that. So we started to do that. And when the second album came, we started to get the features: Pharaoh Monch, Large Pro, and everything we wanted. The second album was crazy; but again, LOUD didn't do they job. You know, Steve just snorted too much coke or whatever it was.

(Laughs)

You know, it was just crazy! He was buying movie companies and spending money on all types of shit that he didn't need to spend money on. So that's how we got caught in that loophole, and that's how we got moved to Stimulated. We felt that was more of an underground label, more of a Koch force, and they'd focus on us. Our A&R at the time was like, "that would be a good move, because they over there bullshittin' at LOUD."

That was Dante Ross's label, right? Stimulated?

Yes! And Dante was cool. He was with it. But then LOUD wasn't giving him the backing, and we just kept getting caught in all this shit. And then, down the line, me and my partner started getting into a little bullshit. I don't want to point fingers, but at the same time… work ethics wasn't the same. Motherfucker was getting caught up with the broads and the bitches and he was missing shoots and all kinds of shit. And that just threw a real bad taste in my mouth. So we just kept working harder and harder on our solo shit until we just split up. I never had no beef; but I just saw at one point or another, his work ethics weren't the same no more.

Well, I have noticed that of the two, you're the one that always did guest spots and put out a series of solo 12"'s; Phantasm didn't really do too much…

Right. Because, like I said, instead of him putting work first, he would put the women first. All the time. And we would argue about that, because I would tell him: it's gonna come with the territory. There's gonna be millions of them, but let's make this money first. He was just so used to being a solo artist, he was his own man, he had all the attention… and it was just little, dumb arguments. Then I just decided the group thing wasn't for me because it's too much ego. When people can't put their egos aside, I couldn't do it. Phan is still my man, but I don't know. As far as doing records? It'd take something real, real big for me to do a record with him again.

Well, you guys did come together for one reunion 12". On Underground Academy?

Yeah, but that was done during the second album. When we were on tour in Paris, the guy from Underground Academy named Olivier had us do that record. But that was it. And I started to realize there's gotta be more to me than just rhyming on top of beats; there's gotta be something else. And you know, I got into the business side of it, and me and my manager put a company together called Spaz Out Entertainment.

And right now, the mix-tape: XXL is putting it out. I got a street album coming out. Me and Sean Price is also working on an album right now. Everything is in the works.

Everything is good. Everything happened for a reason. I kinda took time off to raise my son for a minute, and I learned the business aspect of the game and got my own company now. We got a clothing line coming out in the summer time… I've been working hard.

And are you still working a lot with Nick Wiz?

Well, you know, I didn't really do anything with Nick Wiz since the second album because the same situation kinda happened with him, too. He kinda burned a bridge with me, because his label wanted to give me a deal; and Nick Wiz had introduced me to the person that wanted to give me the deal. But he tried to tell them he was gonna do all the production on my album and he was gonna have control… It was all about control and I couldn't understand why, because every album we did, we made sure that Nick Wiz had nine, ten songs on there. So it became a conflict of interests, and that just never happened. That went down the tubes. So I started to realize, if that's the way it's gonna be in the industry, you know, it is what it is, people change or whatever.

But it was a learning process for me, honestly. You know, I never thought that me and Phan would break up. Never. But that's what you get for saying never... it always happens. Things happen for a reason, though; and I'm not bitter. I still love them dudes, but as far as us doing a bunch of things? That might not ever happen. We would have to sit down and really talk about things.

But so much is happening now. I got this totally underground, overseas album that's crazy. I've got a bunch of features, Steele, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Pharoahe Monch is hollerin'. Everything has been beautiful. We got producers, singers, dudes that shoot videos. And I never knew this side of the business, 'cause all I wanted to do was be a rapper.

Well, let me ask you this about the new stuff. Do you have anything coming out, or ever plan in future, on touching that mystical style again? Or is that something you kinda put behind you back then...

Nah. In fact, the underground album - I don't have a title for it yet - but that's all it is, basically. I never really changed that 'cause that's what got me in the game. That was MY style, so I never really changed that. All I did was adapt to what you hear now. But, like, you will never hear me doing a "Superman" song. I will always stay lyrical. Wherever I get on, if the hook is stupid? The lyrics are gonna be crazy! You've gotta adapt to the game. But as far as mystically? I'm better than I was back then! I wish you were recording right now, I'd spit something for you!

Well, actually, I am recording this...



Let me ask you this real quick, too, before we break off. Obviously Raekwon is pretty famous for having the purple tape, but you had it...

First! Yes sir. That just goes to show you, you know. I think we were just a little bit ahead of our time then, man. If they would've really embraced it, and if we would've hit the colleges really hard, it would've been crazy. We'd've been rock stars right now.

So, it's long been my theory... let me ask you if I'm right. Having the purple tape made perfect sense with the song "Land of the Lost"...

Exactly!

And with LOUD then doing it with Raekwon, I wondered if it was just because they had it set up already with you, like they used your left-over purple plastic.

That's exactly why we made the tape purple! That was the images that we had. It went with the big lock, and the purple sticker with the gold lock on it. Those were the images we had. We had the pages for the book, just the authors that had the money didn't want to produce the copies of it. We had the visuals... We had somebody that was gonna do a cartoon! It was crazy.

But everything happened for a reason. Because now, everyone that we came up in the game with, we're getting back together and everybody wants to form this alliance. Because we're tired of what's going on. These dudes are not even rapping no more. Nobody's taking their time and painting pictures no more; they're just babbling.

Well, now that you're running your own company, how do you feel about the comeback of vinyl? Would you consider putting out a 12" now, or....

I would come out on anything! And everything is coming back around full circle anyway. The beats is coming back to regular boom-bap. Even listen to Busta's new stuff. Premo's coming back. Everything's coming around, so I wouldn't mind putting out anything on vinyl at all. In fact, let me tell you how funny some things are. I just got a letter from Universal, they bought Sony or something happened over there. And I got a call where LOUD didn't sign off on the papers on The Last Shall Be First, so we're gonna re-release that album. Everything comes full circle. It is what it is, I guess; that's hip-hop or that's the world.

Shout out to a.d. - bklyn mint - spazout ent.-and creative juices.

5 comments:

  1. Good interview. I miss those creative, lyrical emcees. I remember buying that CD just for the visual, bugged out lyrics. Loud really messed up on them.

    Vincent
    thimk.wordpress.com

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  2. Great interview man, loved it!!

    Keep doing what you doing!!

    I hope we can someday hear some of the old records he has.

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  3. Nice read. I appreciate this.

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  4. Terrific work, as usual.

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