Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Long Time Coming, Young Zee Interview

Regular readers may have noticed - I mean, I should hope! - that I've been involved with a very exciting upcoming release on Dope Folks Records: Young Zee's long-shelved Musical Meltdown album, originally scheduled to be released in 1996 on Perspective Records. To help celebrate, I interviewed the artist himself, Young Zee.

(Disclaimer: unfortunately, as wonderful as modern technology is, it's still wonky & unreliable, and consequently, much of the audio of this interview was fucked.  The conversation is fresh in my mind, and I took notes, so I've written his answers to those questions as closely as I remember them, but a good deal of paraphrasing was required.  The important thing to me, though, is that I've finally gotten the answers to many of our long held questions, and I can still share that with you guys. So here goes!)

So, with Musical Meltdown finally dropping, like, seventeen years after it was meant to, I wonder if you could talk about that... why it didn't come out in the first place. There was that infamous Source review, but then of course, Perspective also seemed to be closing its doors around that time.

Yeah, it was like a year after. They had the money to keep it open if they wanted, though.  That label was owned by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis; they could've done whatever. But the thing was, they had a lot of acts; they just weren't successful with rap. Do you remember Pudgee?

Yeah, he had "On the Regular" and all.

Yeah. they put out his records and others but it just wasn't doing what they wanted. They had a whole rap department, and when the head of that went elsewhere, the guy who brought me in, when he left, that was basically it. My singles didn't do well... "Problems."  They didn't really sell that big.  They had a lot of R&B, like Mint Condition. They didn't really know what to do with us.

Of course you stayed in the game and went on with The Outsidaz and all... Pudgee went on, Rufus Blaq did. One guy who didn't, though, was Arrogant. Do you know what happened to him? He was tight, and he seemed to totally disappear after Perspective.

Yeah!  Arrogant was nice, real lyrical. I don't know what happened to him. We were like good friends. Perspective would throw parties, they had all this money, and they would take us places, and i'd always get together with Arrogant. I don't know what happened to him.

So after Perspective...

After Perspective, we were shopping deals. We were driving and we just saw Chris Schwartz in the street. We ran up to him like, sign us! He heard a tape and like the next day he signed us. We signed with Ruffhouse because they had all the artists we were fans of: Cypress Hill, The Fugees...

Do you have any of the demo material from back then? Because some of that stuff, there's just these low quality versions floating around, but it's like classic material.

I don't have any of that stuff. My house burnt down in '97, so I don't have any of that Outsidaz archives anymore.

Damn! At least you can keep making new material, though. A lot of artists, you're fans of them in the 90s, but hearing them today and it's just not the same. Even some of the other Outsidaz, they're not on the same level or just different. Pace's stuff kinda changed, or like Azz Izz. His new stuff is like totally different from the MC he was in the Outz.

Well, Azz Izz was a DJ.  A lot of those guys weren't rappers, they were just the guy with the car or whatever, down with the group and we let them rap.  Sometimes you've got to have filler, guys who rap while you're waiting for Meth to come back. They can't all be Method Man. Azz Izz wasn't a rapper, he was a DJ. We had like three DJs.

And he was a producer. I know he did some tracks on the Outsidaz album before doing his own album.

Yeah, he was a producer. And he was a DJ; he was never a rapper.

You've stayed 100%, though. Like stuff you're dropping know, like your album with Mr. Green, you're still on par with your best material. Even a lot of the stronger MCs from the Outz, since you split, it seems like they're not quite as strong as when you were all a group. Is that because you were all writing together, or...?

It was competitive. That's why when the Outz went our separate ways, everybody didn't keep it. When I laid a verse, or Pace, everyone said was sick. So when they did one, they wouldn't pay attention. Or they would cut it off the song. So they knew they had to spit something really ill to keep up. So didn't want to get taken off the album. Now when they're on their own, they just think whatever they're saying is enough.

I'm not saying I was the nicest. You know who I was worried about was Slang.  I used to go hard because he would show me up. I thought he was the illest, so I had to spit my best because he was on the same track.

One thing that separated The Outz was you had the hardness and the edge but also the humor. Another who really held up is Yah. I always felt like he was the most under appreciated in the group.

Yah's my brother.

Yeah, and he had a style similar to yours. I was wondering if...

Yah used to be in the house, listening to me rap. I'd be spitting verses, he'd be like, "yeah, that was tight!"  He was like me in the way he brought all the syllables.

I think also in his writing style, too; the way he'd pull in these references... but not like jokey or typical 90s punchliney.

Yeah, Yah was dead serious when he spit. That was the difference, he spit the kind of shit I liked, but dead serious.

There's only like 500,000 people in the world that are in this for the lyrics. When you hear songs on the radio you don't even like it but you know all the words because you be hearing it. That's a manager or somebody who could put them there. Most people aren't in it for the lyrics; they're in it for the money. And that's what ruins it. That's how I feel.

You know who I'm feeling right now? What's that dude from The Clipse, you know who I mean? With the braids, signed with GOOD Music... It shows how much I partied last night that I don't remember his name now. [I realized afterwards he's talking about Pusha T] That's who I'm into right now.

I got a son who rhymes. He's got a little group, the NJ Rebels. I go to radio stations and when I get in I get asked about him now. He knows he's gotta bring it with me being his father, he can't just be like these guys, only talking about what they're wearing. These guys always want to bring us to these expensive shopping malls and shit we can't afford. We don't want to hear that! Or you can talk about it, but then at least bring the syllables, say it with some skills. But they're not in it for the lyrics. There's only 500,000 of us.

So, speaking of former Outz, what happened with Eminem? I know he didn't get the Outz on his first album, but he was definitely shouting out the group like crazy on there. It was the hook to one of his songs even. Kids who didn't even know who The Outsidaz were knew he was one of them.

Yeah, we were supposed to be "Amityville." Me, Pace, Bizarre, we were all on there. We left, it was done, and Em called, there was one small part of his verse he didn't like. He asked Pace to change that part. Pace said no, he wouldn't do it. He spit it and he should use it, that's just what it was. I was like man, just change it. It was just that one thing.

Pace knows. If somebody had spit a verse on his album and he wasn't feeling, he wouldn't use it. He would take him  off the song. Or ask them to change it... if he likes you.

Yeah, I've met Em, and I definitely got the impression he was like a loyal guy. When he was just coming off the Slim Shady EP, he brought Royce with him, just to promote him. This was before Em was established himself. He always kept D12, he kept shouting the Outz. Like, even if he didn't get you on his first album, I always felt like he would've gotten you on his second through sixth.


But Pace kept dissing Em. He made like three different records going at him.

That's why Em fell back. He wouldn't answer him.  I told Pace just change your verse!

And what about Bizarre? I interviewed him twice in those days, and he was a hardcore Outsida. He was repping it hard. I remember him saying he'd be all over the Outz album. It kind of went the other way, too. Em was supposed to be on an Outsidaz song called "Mama I Said" that got taken off. He thought he and Em would be all over The Bricks album.

Bizarre's my man. I'm still down with him. i just laid a verse for Bizarre four days ago for his next project.

Oh, nice. Yeah, because when the Outz and Shady separated, you were still on that D12 album... and the 8 Mile soundtrack.

I still fuck with Em. When me and Em talk, we talk big money. And I've always been like just his friend. We would just hang. When they called me in to be on that, they called me and Digga. She drove and I was sleeping in the car. When we got there, she went in, and I was still asleep. I woke up like half an hour later, got out the car to smoke, and I saw Em's bodyguards. I was like what's up? And they said Em was upstairs, go on. So I went up in there. They said it was my track so I spit once through and they said that's it, it was done. I thought I'd come back to redo it, but everyone said that was it. Some people said I had the nicest track on that album. But I don't know about that.

I would say so.

I don't call myself the nicest; I'm just a lyricist.

Some people didn't want me on there. Em came to me saying these guys at the label or managers didn't want me on it. I said man, they work for you. If you want me on it, I'm on it. They work for you. And he was like, you right. So I'm on it. But some people didn't like that.

But at some point you signed with Shady. You had another album that was supposed to come out, which I heard at least most of...

Actually, I signed with Denyne. I thought I was signing with Em. Denyne called me, was like you're gonna be on Shady. He came with his manager, I signed the papers, got the money. Then I see Em and I told him I signed and I'm coming out on Shady, and he didn't know anything about it! It was done without his involvement. But he said okay, do it. Let's see what you do. And I recorded, but it wasn't with Em.

I'm just in it for the music now; I just want to work with whoever's about the music. The money can come, but if it doesn't, it doesn't have to. I'm in it for the lyrics. I already have a nice life.

This interview was a crazy struggle. From the audio dying, to Zee's phone dying on us mid-interview. It turned out to be way harder than it should have been. So big thanks to Zee for his patience. Be sure to follow him on twitter. He told me he's got a new album done, can't wait to hear that. And of course Musical Meltdown Part 1, with Part 2 soon to follow.


  1. "But at some point you signed with Shady. You had another album that was supposed to come out, which I heard at least most of."

    Is this material floating around in mp3 form, or did you get some sort of promo? All I was able to find was this sketchy site, selling mp3's of "Paranoia II."

    1. Yeah, it's just the stuff from that Payloadz site.

      By the way, I tried buying from there maybe a year ago or so, and RuffCutz never collected the payment, so it never went through and I never got to download anything. So it seems to be a dead-end now, unfortunately.

  2. I have the stuff from Payloadz :) ... Im still lookin for the info on some features ... would you ask Zee about the Featured rapper if I upload you the stuff?? let me know .. and email me:

  3. D.U."OUTSIDAZ"-'RUN-D.M.C.(*M.c.H.)'

  4. D.U. "Outsidaz" ft. Pace Won,G Smoke, JENZ & Starring JD'bodie'Williams-(D)our'N'j(U)ice

  5. Ahhh... Werner, Werner, Werner. You missed a golden opportunity! After all these years we could've finally gotten some insight into the intro of the song "Nobody".

    You should've asked Zee if it's okay for Loon to wear Sugar Ray Leonard wrestling sneakers.

    That's been nagging me for well over a decade. Sometimes I lay in bed at night and wonder, Is it okay?