Saturday, April 19, 2008

(Werner Necro'd) It's 2099 - Jeru the Damaja Interview

This interview was done in 1998, when Jeru the Damaja was just mounting his independent comeback on his own new label, KnowSavage Records. No longer working with Premiere, Jeru was now doing all of his own production. An artist he was working with at the time, Miz Marvel, came with him.

You were just telling me you had a new project coming out, so...
Yeah, ay-ight, it's called "Safe Sex (Billie Jean)," you know what I'm sayin'? But it's not gonna come out on London. It's gonna come out on KnowSavage Records. And it's only gonna be on wax. Strictly for the DJs, so all the internet heads, who are DJs, that's how ya get it. Ya gotta call up or see it in a store around the way... It's gonna be in all the specialty stores. But it's not gonna be like CDs and cassettes.

You did that before with "Ya Playin' Yaself," right?

Yeah. I mean, some records are just for the DJs. I mean, not that it's not for everybody; it's just that when a DJ gets it, it goes that extra length. So, it's like I'm givin' 'em something special, 'cause they're trying to destroy the wax... the whole hip-hop thing. So, certain things I gotta do just for DJs just to keep that balance.

And KnowSavage Records, is that your label? Do you own it?
Yeah, that's my label. That's my own thing. I'm not crazy big or official or nothing like that; it's just my own thing. Small, little distribution. It's like that; tryin' to work it like that. This is aside from what I'm doin' with my album on London.

Do you know what the title on that is gonna be yet?
I know the title. The title of my album Armor of Gold, Dirter Dan Ever and that's solely produced by Jeru the Damaja. Now it's my turn. I mean, Premier's beats are hittin'. I hear there's, like, a lot of controversy, or people are talkin', but the only reason I'm not usin' Premier is because it's just time for Jeru the Damaja to do beats, you know what I'm sayin'? Some people are gonna love 'em, and some people are gonna hate 'em, but that's with anything in life.

Do you still consider yourself part of the Gangstarr Foundation at all, or is that kinda dead?
I mean, with Jeru and KnowSavage Productions, that's it. Sometimes you gotta go and start your own team. We all still cool and everything, as far as that goes, but as far as I'm doing my own thing and they're doing their own thing. You saw the new Gangstarr record, you saw who the new Gangstarr Foundation is. I'm Jeru the Damaja, doin' his thing.

Are you still working with Afu now? I know he's got his new single out...
Who? "Afu?" Oh, nah, he's got his own thing. He's out there working with a lot of different brothers I really don't know. I really can't speak on that. I'm just KnowSavage Productions, Jeru the Damaja. I'm doin' my girl, Miz Marvel, right here. We're getting ready to throw out a single on KnowSavage Records... another joint. She's also rhymin' on my album, and on the single that I'm doing, "Billie Jean," and the b-side is called, "Bitches With Dicks." And it's a joint that's got me, Miz Marvel, and my man L'il Dap from the Group Home. And, basically, that's it. So, support Jeru the Damaja. This is gonna be on the internet, right?

So everybody support Jeru the Damaja. He's trying to do his own thing. By the time this airs, my record'll be out. KnowSavage Productions. You just gotta look it up in the directory. It'll be there. KnowSavage Productions Incorperated. That's Jeru the Damaja. You see that, call me up. Find out where to get those records from. 'Cause what I'm doin' now is strictly for hip-hop. And, like I said, in a month or two, I'ma put out Miz Marvel's shit and do it like that; underground, strictly. Not the fake shit. This ain't about no Mo', no Benzes, or nothin'. It's about hip-hop. I mean, I'ma make my dough, no doubt. You should get paid for any work that you do. That's the law. You like to get paid for your job. But that's love. For all the brothers and sisters who love hip-hop, support Jeru the Damaja, go out and buy "Billie Jean" b-side, "Bitches With Dicks." Support hip-hop. It's for the real Jeru fans who want something new. If you're looking for the same exact thing as on my last two albums, then you can't get it. It's the same, but now it's some new futuristic shit. It's 2099. That shit I be on is 2099, not 1999.

So who're you listening to? 'Cause I remember on your last album, you kinda called out Foxy Brown... is there anyone big today, like on Hot 97 or whatever, that you would listen to?

Who do I like? I don't listen to Hot 97. I listen to the new 105. (Laughs) For real, if you really wanna know... Basically, Jeru the Damaja is the same as he's always been. Some people I like. I like all the regular heads... that's good. That know how to MC. But, to me, most everybody else is corny. And people gotta understand, too. It's not playa hatin'. 'Cause I don't hate. I'm happy when people make money and make a livin'. I hate corny. I'm a corny hata. If you're a playa, you're a player, if you say. But a playa don't spend. That's trickin', not pimpin'. So I can be a trick hata, you know? So, I don't know.

Anyway, off that subject. Like I said, mostly everybody to me, the artists who talk about they're the nicest and all of that, be really corny. They're ay-ight. I'm not knockin' 'em for what they're doin'. I don't envy, and that's another thing. I don't envy no other man, what no man has, or what no man is doing. I'm an opinionated person; that's it. And if my opinion is that it's corny, it's corny. If I like it, I like it. And, the reason with Foxy Brown and all that is, I mean, ain't nothin' to really say about that. I called it how I saw it. It wasn't nothin'. It was singin'. But, that's a girl. And a girl is gonna act like a girl. Plus, if you don't write your own rhymes like that, you can't battle.

And it's not like a motherfucker is mad a person's making money, 'cause I had a record deal years before that. I've been all over the world in spots that platinum artists haven't even touched that. I've done thousands of shows, you know? Professional. So it's ain't envy or anything like that. I read in a magazine, "Oh, he's just sayin' that to be bad." I'm not bad. You're just corny. That's it. It ain't like that. I just call it like that. I said, "With all that big gun talk, you're playin' yaself." And motherfuckers like, "Oh, Jeru's a playa hata." but that same year, you see, niggas get killed. And I said it's gonna happen. 'Cause you're playin' yaself. You can't be a certain way and expect certain things. It's not gonna happen. Like me. I don't be claim to be the most perfect or the most righteous. To a certain level, I do shady shit. Not intentionally. Not with malice in my heart. But I know that, and I know the consequences. I know if I do something shady, the consequences of something shady happening to me are more likely.

You mentioned battling... Are you still down for battling?
If you try to pull your sword out on me, than I have to battle you. Any mic, with whatever MC is there. It don't matter if they're selling one million, or one record, ya understand? On the mic, it's mic domination. That's it.

Even though it's been a while since your last album, you've been doing projects, like Walkin' Large and Rae & Christian... some pretty diverse stuff. How'd you hook up with those?
Like I said, Jeru the Damaja, I'm worldwide like that. I've been to spots that heads ain't really been. So, dudes out in Germany know me like that. So they could call me up. And Rae & Christian, I know those dudes in Grand Central, down in Manchester, 'cause I flow through there. So they call me up, like, "What's up?" And I'm like, "Cool." If I like what they're doin', then I'll fuck with it. If not, I don't.

Ay-ight... It's kinda old news, but you just wanna touch on, real quick, the Fugee thing? Where they're talking about you on the record and such-and-such.
I mean, it's like this, man. All that type shit, I ain't really got nothin' to say about, 'cause can't none of them can burn me MCing. That's really the bottom line. you can sell a million records, you can have a million bitches, whatever. But, you can't burn me MCin?, bottom line. That's what I'm sayin', as far as all of that. If motherfuckers really want to take that to a level, let's just battle.

You said, on your last album, your label kinda fucked up your project's momentum, on "Too Perverted"...

What'd you mean by that? What happened?
I mean labels don't really know what the fuck they're doing. They just don't listen to a brother. Because, the status that I got, the sales don't reflect. So, obviously, it's not me, 'cause I'm not the one selling the record, or marketing the record, or promoting the record.

Right, ok. So, real quick, you went on tour for a long time with DJ Shadow, Latryx... What was it like touring with them, out west? It's not the type of groups that people might associate you with.
I mean, I tour with all types of heads. I'm alternative, but still underground. I'm regular, but I'm still alternative. I appeal to an alternative, college crowd. So, really, the crowd was mine, anyway. It wasn't different than nothing. Those were the crowds I appeal to, the college crowd, the white crowd. It's not just like for the boys in the hood. It's for everybody from the boys in the hood to the Filipino kids... Whoever. They like Jeru the Damaja for bringing conscious lyrics. It's just hip-hop. No matter what it sounds like, it?s hip-hop. It's no gimmick. It's no nothin', just hip-hop. And they like that. They feel that. They feel that, because that's culture. That's the way I live my life everyday. And that's what hip-hop is. Culture. It's not a fad, and the kids respect that. I got culture in my shit, and the culture that I have is gonna spread out. And that's it. So, playin' with DJ Shadow wasn't nothin'. I'm bringing my culture.

Today, Jeru is still doing his thing. His latest album, Still Rising, just came out this past October on Ashenafi Records, plus he just did a stint on Ill Bill's latest album. And of course, he has a myspace page. Miz Marvel changed her name to Omega, which she's mostly been ghost-writing pop songs as, though she also did a track for a compilation album called Queendom vol. 1 last year..If she has a myspace, though, I can't find it.

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