From KRS-One’s “Sound Of The Police” to Jeru da Damaja’s “Invasion,” the hip-hop community has never had a problem picking up a mic to voice their distaste for, and opinion of, the boys in blue. After all the “civil unrest” caused by incident after incident after incident involving the police, it’s no surprise that a large majority of new and forthcoming releases revolve around the topic.
With a little help from some creative comrades, including rappers Steve Roxx and Ras Kass, hip-hop emcee and North Carolina’s own Rapper Big Pooh is about to join the ranks with his debut release for Mello Music Group, Words Paint Pictures. And while he’s busy painting pictures with his words for y’all, Apollo Brown will provide you with some good ol’ fashioned boom bap style beats.
It’s clear that Big Pooh has his hands full with the new album, as well as celebrating the ten year anniversary of his debut solo album Sleepers, but it ain’t just music that’s keeping him busy. Brooklyn Radio’s Lara Gamble found time to talk with Rapper Pooh about his early days working with Little Brother, as well as his love of all things basketball. Also, make sure to head over to iTunes to pre-order the album here.
What is your earliest memory of hip-hop?
My earliest memory of hip-hop is going to little parties when I was young and dancing to Rob Base “It Takes Two.”
Was there a lot of music in your house growing up?
Uh, not a lot. My mom, she listened to a little bit of music, but it was mostly Luther Vandross and Sade.
When did you realize you wanted to make rhyming a career?
I think I realized music was something I wanted to do when I was probably in elementary going into middle school. I would write songs and things of that nature, but it wasn’t until I got to college that I really saw it as a career. Up until that point, I did it, but I didn’t see it as a career until I got around other people that actually saw it as a career.
What happened in college that helped you get to that point?
I just ended up meeting Phonte, 9th, Chaundon. Just meeting other people who were determined to make it their way of life. Just being around them, that type of thing rubs off on you.
Who would you credit as helping you get your name out?
I credit two people actually. The first, I definitely credit Phonte. We had a little group in school. It was me, him, and Chaundon, and Chaun didn’t come back to school one semester, and then Phonte and I had a talk. He was like, “Man, I don’t really see us as a duo. I think you need to work on some stuff and work on your confidence.” So, that really pushed me to…it was more of a “What? I’ll show you.” And that pushed me to want to get better, like not be satisfied with where I was.
And then the other person was my manager. He wanted to see me get better more than I wanted to see me get better for a long time, and he would always push me no matter what I accomplished. No matter what was going on, he would always push me to keep working on my craft.
He actually was the one who pushed me to really make a solo album back in ’05. It was before ’05, but he was the one who really, really pushed me to do that. He used to always say, “You know, Phonte is working on Foreign Exchange.” And 9th was producing for other people at the time. He had the Jay-Z thing under his belt, and he used to say, “Everybody else is working. You gotta show people you’re working too.” I mean, he had more colorful language than that, but that was probably the two people that really inspired me to work hard the most.
How did Little Brother come together?
By happenstance. You know, obviously we knew each other, but during that summer, they had started recording at Cesar Comanche’s house, and I was living in Charlotte. So, I would catch the train back to Durham or Raleigh. I would come back just to show them that I was working, and I came back one weekend, and they was recording. You know, normally, I would come back and work on my own stuff. At that time, that’s when it was just like a hodge-podge. We were just running around.
It just so happened that this particular weekend, Phonte and 9th was working on the record, and they was looking for Median. He was supposed to be on the record, and as normal, Median didn’t show up. I was there, so they was like, “Pooh, do you want to jump on this record?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure.”
So, that record ended up being “Speed.” And, you know, after we recorded it, I was just listening to it, and I was like, “Damn, that song sounds tight.” I didn’t know, at the time, they were listening to it thinking the same thing. So, from that point, we were like let’s just try and make a couple more records together and see how what it be.
And that was nine years.
Yeah, that was it.
So, your debut album Sleepers was released ten years ago. What did you learn from working with the group that you’ve used in your career as a solo artist?
Just how to be a better craftsman, how to create better songs, just little nuances. Obviously, I write different from how Phonte writes, and 9th doesn’t really write, but I just learned the nuances of songwriting and the nuances of creating. I mean, writing a verse is totally different from creating a song from top to bottom.
The main thing, like real talk, is I learned how to be a producer. I can’t make a beat to save my life, but I know how to produce a song from top to bottom, and that’s something, you know, that I picked up just being in the studio watching them work. So, that’s probably the biggest thing.
Your upcoming EP with Mello Music Group, Words Paint Pictures, is due to drop March 24. What can you tell readers about working exclusively with Apollo Brown on the record?
I think working with Apollo Brown, for me, it kind of took me back to that time period when I was working on my first record. Aesthetically, it sounds, you know, not the same, but it gives you that same feeling. Obviously, he’s a dope producer, and the beats he was supplying me with just took me to a place I didn’t think that I would end up going in my career. And that’s speaking on social issues and really saying what I was feeling about certain things. And I didn’t ever think I would put that into my music, but it was just something about the beats he was giving me — the beat selection.
Cause he picked what beats to give me. It’s not like I went and sat in front of his computer, and was like, “Alright, give me about an hour, and I’m going to pick out what I want.” He would send me two, three beats at a time and be like, “Yeah, record to these. Record to these.”
So, once he started hearing where I was trying to go with it…well, he didn’t even really hear where I was going with it. He just knew what he wanted to give me. And what he gave me ended up being — it was just like it was meant to be. So, the chemistry was real dope. The kinetic energy was real dope, and I think people will really enjoy this EP.
Who created the album’s cover art?
My guy Tobias Rose. I worked with him for years. We actually went to school together in college at North Carolina Central, and I always went to him for artwork. He’s a music head. He actually does music. That’s how I met him. He’s a rapper and a producer, but he turned out being real dope at being able to do web design and graphic art, and he’s an actual artist and photographer.
So, since…pssh, for maybe about seven or eight years now, I would go to him for artwork. So, when I had the idea for this EP, we went out one night, and I pitched it to him, and he was with it. I didn’t know what he was gonna do, but when he came back, he came back with a drawing. That’s actually a fourth generation drawing of the idea, but he came back with a hand drawing pitching, “Yo, what’s the idea?” I got to explain to him what the album was about, and we just kept tweaking, kept tweaking until we got that. So, that was a combination of my idea and his ideas and his handiwork.
Yeah, it’s dope. How do you think the art ties in with the message behind your first single, “Stop,” which dropped earlier this month?
Oh, it ties directly in. The artwork is, you know – it’s crazy. I did one of these fan question things on my Facebook fan page where I let fans basically ask me questions, interview me. And this one guy, he was just like, “Ah, man. I like the single, but it’s too violent. The artwork is too violent.” And I’m like, “You don’t get it?” And he was like, “Nah, I get it.” I was like, “Nah, you don’t get it if you’re saying that then.”
And I want to explain, the album is Words Paint Pictures. So, obviously, when you listen to the album, there’s no pictures that go with it, but if you really listen to the album, you’ll be able to create, you know, in your mind, the imagery that I’m saying as you go track by track. But the actual artwork, it represents the black male, young/older, the crown represents we all kings, and then obviously, with the bullet holes, that’s just going down. That’s how we’re being executed. You know what I’m saying?
And I wanted that image to really stick with people as they listening to this record because not only the song “Stop,” but most of this record, is detailing the black male’s experience in America. So, it definitely ties directly in to, not only the song “Stop,” but also what’s been going on, not just recently, but through time with black males being executed for being black. You know, I made sure it tied into the idea of the EP, and that’s just how with “Stop,” it was coincidental, but it definitely ties directly in to the single.
Do you find yourself writing about issues like those you touch on with the album help you personally deal with things, or is it more to give your fans and listeners something to think about?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I’m not really one to jump on social networks like a lot of people and go through about eighteen tweets, you know, standing on a soap box or trying to explain my view or whatever. I’d rather just put it in my art, and putting it in my art allows other people to understand, hopefully, my perspective on certain situations. And it resonates with more people, and it stays a little longer.
And when I do that, it’s like a different digestion for the listener as they’re listening to it. Hopefully, I can paint a better picture of my experience or what I’m experiencing or the experience of listening to a song rather than me trying to beat you over the top of the head talking to you. You know what I’m saying? You soak it up a little bit differently. So, definitely actually being able to express it through song helps me, and then receiving it through song, hopefully, helps them.
On a lighter note, what can you tell readers about the “Pooh On Sports” NBA podcast?
Ah, man. That’s something that I started – back up. This is probably like the fourth version of “Pooh On Sports.” But it’s just something light, fun. I play music. It’s me and my partner Vince Poe, one of my best friends. We just talk about basketball. We’re going to eventually transition into talking about all sports.
We just wanted to start off with basketball for the time being. We just get on there and talk about basketball. We give you our points of view. We’re not politically correct. We’re not always right. We don’t always have the correct stats. It’s just fun. It’s light. We just enjoy talking about basketball, and I think it’s good for people who actually know about the game.
It’s like going into a barber shop and hearing guys talking about who’s better: Kobe or LeBron? And that’s kind of what we do. And it’s dope for people who aren’t necessarily big fans because it’s not just straight-laced basketball facts. You know, we keep it real. I enjoy sports immensely. I’m a sports fanatic.
Is there anything else that you want to add or promote?
For one, just thanks to all the people who’ve been rocking with me since day one whether your day one is back in 2003, or your day one started yesterday. I just appreciate everybody that’s been rocking with me. I got a lot of music and a lot of content coming and definitely, definitely, definitely, definitely be on the lookout.
Being that this is the ten year anniversary of Sleepers, I’m going to be performing Sleepers live with a five-piece band, background singers, the whole nine, and that’s going to be coming up in a couple months. So, be on the lookout for that.
Is there going to be a full tour?
Right now, it’s just looking like I’m going to do two North Carolina dates since this is where I started. You know, I’m going to do those two dates in North Carolina, and then we’ll see. It may turn into something by fall after I finish promoting Words Paint Pictures. But if it don’t, I’m going to definitely have a live album. We’re recording it, so we’ll create a live album. So, I think it’s something people would enjoy.