featured interview

Longshots Hungry to bring real Hip-Hop back 'This year I declare war on jails, drugs and poverty, this year I declare war on these corny MC's talkin about guns and smokin weed', The LongShots rap on 'First Brick', a highlight track on their superb debut album 'Hunger Music'. Crayon and Rock Shabazz are hungry to be heard, so we decided to let them speak their minds on the music, the culture and the streets.

Who are The LongShots?

Crayon: Initially The LongShots are a rap group from Queens, NY, consisting of King Crayon and Rock Shabazz, but in another sense, The LongShots are whoever are up against the odds, underestimated, unappreciated but aware of their own talent, creativity and overall worth.

How long have you two been down?

C: We've been recording for about 3 years and rapping for the greater part of our lives. I've known Rock for about 6 or 7 years.

Rock Shabazz: Yeah. We've been grinding non-stop since we first started.

Were there always two members?

C: It started out with 4 members and it was a super group I was trying to form from the best emcees I knew. One dude dropped out because he was caught up in the street life and the other one started running with the Dipset before he got incarcerated.

R: We never got to record with all the members so it was all talk basically. Now that we're showing promise and it seems that we'll bear fruit, more dudes are trying to hang on but you gotta know allies from parasites. Not knowing will be your downfall.

What's your biggest inspiration?

C: That depends because our style is based of experience. At the same time I could say we draw a lot from the originators like Rakim, Krs-1, Big Daddy Kane.

R: Inspiration comes from the drive to succeed. I'm inspired by anyone who came out and shined in their field, hip-hop or otherwise. It's that need to achieve something big that drives you.

You just dropped the dope album 'Hunger Music', how are the reactions/sales?

C: The Internet sales are off the hook but we are still looking for international distribution, which from an artistic perspective would really make this a genuine classic because overseas the hip-hop community has a higher standard of music. It's not about the hype. You really got to bring it cause out there they are still listening to Tribe and Bootcamp so you gotta put out material that can carry on the tradition.

R: We can see the critical acclaim is there and the buzz is growing daily. Everyone who hears it loves it because technically it's a real work of art. We'll never see it for what it is because we're the creators but a lot who heard it tell me this is something that they've been waiting for.

Why did you call your album 'Hunger Music'?

R: The album is the result of pure hunger. Everybody got trap music, thug music, crack music, etc... We're acknowledging the ones hip-hop left behind when it got money. It's a hunger to be heard too. That demo-slinger's hunger to get on.

C: At the time we were struggling so hard to make the music. We paid for everything, vinyl, promo, recording. Every MC's story you hear nowadays is how they had to hustle, sell drugs to get paid but that's not our story, we had jobs. Anybody that ever had to wake up early in the morning and run to a bullshit job that hardly paid you could tell you that's not what they want to do for the rest of their life. This music was made during that time and translated that feeling as our hunger for more hence HUNGER MUSIC.

Why should people buy the album?

R: Because it's raw hip-hop. Everybody complains how rappers don't talk about anything, albums are all singles and fillers, the creativity is gone, how they wish emcees would bring it back. We're solving all that with this album so now we'll see if the fans are really real or just talking trash. This is that LP that every purist and real head wants and every radio fan needs to hear.

C: That's like asking why should you love your Mom. I feel so strong about this album because we made it for the hip-hop competent not for the mass appeal. I love hip-hop like a third parent and I would never disrespect it by putting out a weak album. We set our standards based off of the true skool we grew up in. What I really wanted was a piece another MC would buy out of respect and we did just that cause a couple of emcees I REALLY respect copped it.

Is there any particular song that you treasure the most?

C: Yeah, for me 'Pallbearers' cause the song is so true and heartfelt. You could hear the sincerity in our voices. My story in particular was about a good friend I had back in South side named Kern. I know a lot of cats who died young in the hood, but this dude was a good kid, he never was in the streets like us. He had just had a baby girl when he was coming home one day from work and got caught up in a shoot out... shit was fuckin terrible. I can't even listen to that song too much.

R: I can't listen to the LP too much because it's emotionally exhausting. We went through a lot during the recording of the LP. Sometimes you don't want to revisit that. You can hear the emotion in our voices and the 'behind the music' stuff that happened.

Is there any song that you think you could've done better?

C: No, but there's one song I wish that we left on there called 'Best Friends' which would have been my favourite track but the beat, lyrics was on a whole different vibe than what the rest of the album was on. We're actually thinking about releasing that song as a B-side to our next vinyl 'Life we Livin'.

R: I'm pretty critical about my music so I'll always see mistakes most won't notice... Compared to what's out there now, it's superior though.

How do you come up with the lyrics, how do you begin writing a song?

R: I vibe with the beat for a while. I like to sit with it and get familiar with its elements before I actually write. That helps with the flow and delivery. As far as the rhymes, we got rhymes in storage for days so we either get old songs to fit the beat or we craft them to the beat. I take my time with it.

C: I write really late at night in front of a computer in a dark room. It's spooky but sometimes it feels like spirits start to talk to me...but it's really my girl telling me to come to bed. (laughs)

There's a beat by Ayatollah on it, but you never met him, right?

C: No, we never met Ayatollah but we are honoured to have a beat from him. I reached out to him trying to work something out since we had the vinyl out and it was a popular record across the country and abroad, but dude hung up on me. That's the problem with a lot of American producers if you are not a big name or don't have a ton of money they don't want to work with you. They rather envision the short term rewards of dealing with a non talented rapper than dealing with the long -term rewards of working with some talented kids.

R: Ayatollah was the catalyst to our recognition. These days you need a marquee name or some hype to generate attention. He was the element that made the listeners grant us 4 minutes and hear the track. But to second Crayon, a lot of producers would rather sell a dope beat to clowns than to give it to someone poorer who can make a classic. That's why less classic, hungry music is coming out.

You guys are from Jamaica Queens. Many classic rap acts are from Jamaica. Which ones do you look up to / did/do you like a lot?

C: A Tribe Called Quest, Onyx, Mobb Deep, LL cool J... personally, Nas is my favourite MC.

R: Where I live in Hollis, Run-DMC are venerated and LL gets respect. I don't look up to no one but a few movements made noise that I can recall. The Lost Boyz made a lot of noise. Emcees on the Westside of Queens got more recognition historically, over in Queensbridge. Jamaica's on the east.

Is there any one of them you know or went to school with?

C: Nah man those guys are way older than we are.

R: Yeah, we babies compared to them dudes, they're OGs! (laughs)

How's the streets in 2005 compared to ten years ago?

C: There's always that element about New york that anything can happen to anyone but its not like the crack epidemic that hit NY in the late 80's and early 90's. Personally I feel the drug game is drying up. This era is really the after effects of that crack era: a lot of broken homes, substance abuse, the spread of AIDS and HIV run rampant through our communities. A lot of young people dealing with grown-up issues due to the absence of parents caught up in the crack era. Stickup kids still rule the night though.

R: I think everyone just gave up. Everybody is a master at running the list of problems but no one cares or has the discipline for a solution. It's corny on the streets, man. People hold on to it for rep but there's nothing there. Where you hear about old school black cats being innovators of style, these days most dudes on the street just copy whatever they see on TV. Grown men damn near 40 with doo-rags and one pant leg up.

Do you have a day job outside the music? What do you do?

C: I work at a call-center doing customer service bullsh*t, I hate it, but my REAL job is being a Father: I got a 2 year old son named Prince and a 1 year old daughter named Poetree.

R: You gotta have a job when you're in the New York underground. It's dog eat dog. The grind is long and the rewards come slow. You gotta maintain.

If you could make a million dollar deal with a big label what would be the first thing you do with the money?

C: I'd call DJ PREMIER.

R: Buy houses and land. Make sure I leave with something.

There's a project with The White Shadow of Norway coming up, right? How did you hook up with him and why did you decide to work with him? What can we expect from the album?

C: Basically it's a concept EP called 'The Jungle Book', a survival guide to the concrete jungle. This EP is a narrative to the streets. As true and brutally honest as we could put it while still being creative and innovative. We decided to do the joint with Shadow cause he had a bunch of beats and he was the most talented producer that we met so far that was down to earth. Me and Shadow are really friends... so why not?

When did you start a) listening to hip-hop, b) doing hip-hop and c) have you always been an emcee or have you dj'ed, produced, break dance?

C: I started listening to hip-hop at 8 years old and I used to break dance when I was in grammar school but never really was into hip-hop until I heard LL Cool J's 'Mama said Knock you Out', then I became a hip-hop head. I actually wanted to be a DJ. I used to make mix tapes with a tape recorder. One time I saved all summer to buy me a 1200 but I ended up spending it on a Super Nintendo.

R: I don't remember when I started. Before like "92, it was nameless to me. I knew the songs but not the name of the groups. I started rhyming late 1997. I wanted to be a DJ. I thought they were cooler but a pencil is .99 cents so there you go.

What were the first rap groups you listened to?

C: Run-DMC, Whodini, Naughty by Nature, X-Clan, Cypress Hill, NWA, Ghetto Boyz and of course Tribe Called Quest.

R: I started really 'listening' and not just hearing around the Tribe, Black Moon, Smif n Wessun, Wu Tang, De La Soul Era. Early 90's. Before that it was just dope background music.

What hip-hop albums are you checking out right now?

C: Little Brother - 'The Minstrel Show', Reef The Lost Cauze - 'Feast for famine', St.Laz and the Pottersfield - mixtape, Immortal Tech but I cant wait till my man Akir's done with his project.

R: Common dropped an LP I really like. One Be Lo's 'Sonogram' also and Kanye's joint. Aside from that I'm pumpin old joints like Keith Murray 'Enigma' and 'Illadelph Halflife'.

Favorite hip-hop albums of all-time?

C: Mobb Deep - 'Infamous, Notorious BIG - 'Ready To Die', Tupac - Me against the world, the whole Nas catalogue and Big Pun's Capital Punishment.

R: Nas - Illmatic, Snoop Doggy Dogg - Doggystyle, Wu-Tang - Enter the Wu-Tang, Outkast - Aquemini, ATCQ - Midnight Marauders, Mobb Deep's Hell On Earth, Ghostface Killah - 'Ironman' etc.

Who's your favourite rappers?

C: Nas, Tupac, Biggie, Busta, Pun.

R: 2Pac, Nas, Method Man, Krs-One, Ice Cube, Canibus, Redman, etc.

What makes a rapper a 'dope' rapper? What makes him a better rapper than an average rapper according to you?

C: By showing originality, creativity isn't afraid to go against the status quo but at the same time staying true to hip-hop standards.

R: Technique. You can tell who worked at their craft. Timely delivery, creative flows. Different ways to express what everybody's saying. Also the emotion in the voice and having no feeling of censorship to your expression.

What's so great about hip-hop?

C: That your message can be heard around the world it can change some ones outlook, help them get through a difficult situation, it make you feel good, or just serves as some good advice.

R: Yeah. The power that it generates which can be channelled into other avenues, business or whatever. It can be empowering.

What's not great about hip-hop?

C: The industry. The people that have no idea about the history or the art form of hip-hop culture but have jobs in this industry that determine what's put out there. Underground artists sometimes are more big-headed than mainstream artists. I've met a lot of dudes, that I feel I’m better than that, were just plain assholes.

Do you listen to other music besides hip-hop?

C: Yes. I listen to reggae, dance hall and Cultural.

R: Same thing. Plus I grew up around everything, rock, classical, everything.

Please leave some comments with the following names:

Mobb Deep

C: My idols as a kid.
R: Their street talk cast a shadow over how complete they were from a musical and lyrical standpoint.

50 Cent

R: Understands the business
C: He has really big teeth

J-Zone

C: Hilarious dude
R: Creative underground

A Tribe Called Quest

C: My idols as well.
R: They were naturals.

Goodie Mob

C: Dope yet unappreciated Southern hip-hop.
R: Their first album is almost perfect.

Brotha Lynch Hung

C: Old skool west coast underground king (well, him and King T)
R: He has a strong following.

The Beat Bandits

C: A secret society that only Bruce Wayne could infiltrate
R: Our classmates in the true-school.

What's next for The LongShots?

C: We're gonna drop our EP 'The Jungle Book', a mix tape and some other shit before we start on our next album. We also did a video for 'Life We Livin' with my man Mehdi Zollo from Geneva so stay tuned fam we doing shows every where coming soon to a hood near you.

R: We'll keep promoting this LP because a lot of people haven't heard of it yet and return to change the game. That's a promise.

Shout-outs?

Yeah! PEACE 2 MY LSC FAM, GODZ, T-POT, Waggerdagger, E-NOT,DC DRAKE 2 our COMRADES in the struggle AKIR, SOUTHPAW, ST LAZ, OPIUM, and the BEAT BANDITS

Peace To Mario D Robinson at www.dandresdream.com from Atlanta who did our website and Mas D from Dujeous who did our album artwork, two of the most professional brothers in the business who are true allies in our struggle.

Thanks!

 

POSTED 06|19|2005
conducted by cpf

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