Aiming to serve those who enjoy looking around to find hip-hop gems, Matt chatted with this US collective about who they are, what
This ones especially for all those heads who like to trawl the net looking for some uncovered hiphop gems… does that make me a geek or a real hiphop head?! You decide! Anyway, I came across this crew after a head called J-Boy recommended them to me in an MSN conversation… (yet more evidence of being a geek). The crew are one of the many talented underground hiphop collectives in the US who are striving to develop and push forward their music. Matt Grant looks across the big pond to get a detailed account of what's going on over there…. step up the TD3 Productions crew…
First off, can each member present just introduce themselves and summarise their role in TD3 Productions?
TD3: Well, I'm the CEO. I started it back in '02 with just putting together shows in my area, where the type of music – underground hip hop – was lacking in live shows… so I figured I'd just start doing them myself. Eventually through the people I was meeting and working with, fate would eventually land it in my hands for it to expand to what it is now: a well respected group of extremely talented artists that I work with, manage and put out CDs with. I still put on shows, but the main focus has shifted to mainly working my artists until we are all on TV counting our fans and money, laughing at the dudes that used to hate on us… I push my artists 110% and whatever they put forth to me, I give it back – 90% of my time is somehow directed to them and this company.
Grime tha MC: Emcee, battler, class clown…
DJ Hevan: E3's DJ…
Eye: Executive Producer and MC/Member of E3…
Okwerdz: Famous rapper!
Mic Stylz: The idol of the other MC's in this interview…
Ha! Ok cool… pleased to meet you. So how did you all meet and what was the thinking behind the formation of TD3 Productions?
TD3: Well, I met Stylz after buggin' him for a few months straight about getting him on a show in 2002. I finally got him to get on this show with Thirstin Howl III and the Lo-Lifes in Oct 2002. He went with me to pick them up in NYC and we hit it off – I started working with him, pushing his shit and then ecame his official manager, and continued with putting on shows and battles with Stylz on many of them. At my first $500 battle in Hadley , MA in March '03, I was blown away by a local college kid who never really battled before, made it to the finals and was ON POINT and DRILLING into kids like I never seen before… Grime tha MC. I eventually added him into the mix, coaching him on some things and how the game worked. I got him to record his first joint on the TD3 Productions Back to School Mixtape Vol.1 shortly after the battle, and seen this kid had some ILL talent. He was friends with these other kids he was going to school with at Umass in Amherst, MA… and he was telling me "yo, u gotta hear these kids… they are amazing" and since I hear that all the time from people, I usually dismiss it! That was until he gave me the CD and I was definitely impressed ten fold. He introduced me to them, I got up with them and started to help them out, got them on a show I threw in NYC - which was a CD release show for the mixtape of mine w/Immortal Technique & Poisen Pen, PackFM, Tonedeff, OVM, Invasion, and Grime. I just recently added my man Okwerdz from Cali as an official TD3 Productions Camp representative, cuz I seen how he had Cali on lock when it came to battles, etc. So after I got him on a show out here in Boston , I decided he was a perfect addition to the now UNSTOPPABLE TD3 Productions Camp.
So where exactly are you reppin? What part of the US do you all hail from and how has this influenced your music?
Okwerdz: Stockton , California , baby – aand being from the West Coast has influenced me a great deal in the flow and style department.
Mic Stylz: Andover , Massachusetts …a suburb of Boston . Growing up in Andover influenced me as far as my education and having opportunities many other MC's may not have had while growing up due to the fact Andover is an affluent community, but musically I was more influenced by living in NY during college and being a part of the Boston underground scene after that.
Eye: Boston , Massachusetts
DJ Hevan: I'm repping Beantown , DJ's around the area that have influenced me are DJ Laze Boy and DJ Turbo, a Boston hip hop group I have always listened to is the Kreators !! Oh yea and of course Mic Styyyylz…
Grime tha MC: Greater Boston Area, Lynn, MA to be exact…........I say my style is very East Coast, a lot like NYC, punchline wise its very NYC, but Boston is also a very intelligent city, a lot of the emcees are on some backpacker, spaced out.
So having grown up in the USA, did you all get into hiphop at an early age or have some of you come into hiphop off the back of other musical influences?
TD3: I was into hip-hop for almost as far back as I can remember. It was definitely MTV that got me so influenced by hip-hop. This was probably '86 or '87 when I really became a fan for hip-hop. I remember pretty much getting ranked on and teased for listening to rap. Run-DMC, Digital Underground, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, NWA & Dr Dre, Tone Loc, etc… But before that I still remember the first piece of music I ever bought was Motley Crue's "Looks That Kill" 45 single vinyl. I'm still into other shit, but 90% of what I listen to is (real) hip-hop.
Okwerdz: I've been into hip hop since I heard MC Hammer, but I mean I always listened to other shit. I always liked rock and shit like that.
Mic Stylz: Like Okwerdz it was dudes like Hammer – which I know doesn't sound cool now, Tribe Called Quest and Biz Markie in the early 90's that got me into hip hop. I've always been into music and can deal with anything but country generally.
Grime tha MC: I was into hip-hop at the age of nine, I loved Run-DMC, Kris-Cross, ABC…like little kid groups…....then I got into hardcore rock, then came back to hip-hop, Boston underground, at like sixteen…
DJ Hevan: When i was little I used to have to different boomboxes that I would turn on and off one after another, I first realized that I wanted to b a DJ is when I realized I couldn't rap! Eye: I really first got into hip hop with Digital Underground / The Humpty Dance and then A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory. I mean, that album is what really got me writing and started my love for Hip Hop – probably around 12 yrs old.
How would you describe your music?
Grime tha MC: Energetic, cocky, angry, and entertaining. I still haven't really found my voice or style and there are a lot more creative things I want to do with my music that I haven't done yet…
DJ Hevan: I guess I'll speak for E3 on that : E3 is a universal group in the sense that the three emcees are all very different , we got Eye spitting some of the deepest most clever written rhymes with a style of word play you cant pin point … we got Dese who brings that stylish jiggy punch line shit to the table , and we got Excetera who just rips shit no matter where or when…
Okwerdz: My music is like a punch in the face but then again it can be funny or even the saddest thing you ever heard – it all depends how I feel when I write it but I have something for everyone and I'm really working hard to do that.
And how would say your music fits into the rest of the US scene? Do you take inspiration from certain artists/styles or are you really trying to push a totally new vision?
DJ Hevan: I think E3's music is so great because it can easily appear to any type of hip hop fan – underground, mainstream, deep shit , etc… so it fits into a lot of different categories.
Okwerdz: I think I definitely fit into a lot of different categories since you never know what I'm going to do in the next song but I definitely have one of those stand out voices and styles so yes I'm trying to start some different shit.
Grime tha MC: I feel like we can give the rest of the country a real Boston sound….a lot of the time people try to put us into the NYC category but we've got a different sound, and between Excedera, Dese, Stylz, and me, you can really hear that sound.
Is the US hiphop scene divided? Do you all have little sub-scenes which you operate in? I'm thinking maybe things are divided along terms of where you come from, the type of hiphop you do and maybe even things like ethnicity…
TD3:I've grown out of looking at things racially. I think it's what society, government and corporations want you to do in order for an easier way for them to use you to benefit them easier – I know I'm veering off the exact question, but I think this is important – It's easier for politicians to get "the black vote" or even "the Asian American vote" if they almost brainwash most of America's youth to think x people are bad, x are better than y people, y people are more violent or dumber than z people, etc. As for corporations, that's simple – if they group people, its easier for them to sell or advertise to a specific group of people that they want your $ from. Anybody with a marketing degree can tell you that. I just don't think that's right, we are basically consumer slaves to big business (pause)… now that I think over what, I look crazy because it has very little to do with your question… but I guess that's what big business wants: people that speak the truth to look like the crazy ones… so ya'll wont listen to me haha…
Eye: Well, basically, in my eyes, there's mainstream and underground. Then there are divisions of mainstream, as there are divisions of underground. In other words, just because you're mainstream doesn't mean you suck and just because you're underground doesn't mean you're keeping it real. I see the division of underground and mainstream as a mass – marketability thing. Like if you sell 2 million records and they play your shit on MTV etc. Your are mainstream. But like I said there's divisions of mainstream and underground. Like, you could sell 2 million and be good such as Jay Z and Eminem.
Grime tha MC: The hip-hop scene has too many sub-cultures to count – there is mainstream, underground, mixtape scene, so called backpacker rap. Each section of the country even has different scenes… as far as me personally, I rep the underground Boston scene.
DJ Hevan: …for a long time shit has been classified as mainstream or underground, but I think that is changing somewhat with the rise of artists like Kanye West. We will begin to see more artists that you wouldn't normally see that hopefully won't become commercialised.
Okwerdz: yeah, there are many sub genres and I hate how they call them different things, just let it all be hip hop you know? That's what I do – I'm hiphop – that goes for any sub genre u want to make up. I'm everywhere so be scared wussys!
Haha… fair enough… who else is dope in US hiphop just now? Are there any underground acts you'd recommend which UK heads might not have heard of before?
TD3: Of course all of my guys – (Mic Stylz, Dese, Eye, Grime, Excetera, Okwerdz. Other than them – Grafh, PackFM, Tonedeff, Poverty, Sage Francis, Thirstin Howl III, Wordsworth, Scram Jones, Jae Hood, Esoteric, Immortal Technique, etc.
Grime tha MC: Poverty and Grafh
Eye: The Kreators and Apathy
Mic Stylz: Like Grime said – Poverty and Grafh got it locked right now. I'm also feeling this dude Scram Jones from NY and myself- I'm actually my favourite MC!
DJ Hevan: www.kreators.org and watch out for that cat Hevan I heard he's been jotting down a verse a day!
Okwerdz: EVERYBODY GO BUY TECH N9NE'S ALBUMS!! He's the best rapper EVER… and he's on my album haha!
And what about UK acts…who have you heard of from the UK ? Which acts are you particularly feeling from these isles?
DJ Hevan: Sorry man, no clue.
Stylz: My boy Jon Paul is killin' em on the R&B tip. He's got joints with Marsha of Floetry, one of the dudes from 112 and he's got some production from Jay Dee from Slum Village. We're actually working on a couple collaborations, so be on the look out for that.
Okwerdz: Yo, unlike Hevan, I've heard a lot of UK hip hop. I love Jehst, Braintax and Task Force… there's some great music coming from over there…. and Roots Manuva rules…
Grime tha MC: Yeah and that guy Dizzee Rascal….he's sick.
Are there any artists you would really like to work with? I'm talking about from anywhere in the world…
Grime tha MC: Grafh and if you could bring the dead back, Big Pun – also Louis Logic, Ed Rock, Joe Budden, Kanye West… and Avril Lavigne!
Eye: Hmmm. I'm happy with E3 for now.
TD3: Grafh, JoJo Pellegrino, Michael Jackson, Scram Jones, Joe Budden, The Beatles, Kanye West, Zach DeLa Roche, Immortal Technique, Sage Francis, Inxs, Eminem, Dr Dre, 2pac, too many more to name.
Okwerdz: I want to work with Biggie, Immortal Technique, MF Doom, Rock from Heltah Skeltah, Thirstin Howl, and I want some Necro and El-P beats…
DJ Hevan: That Chinese dude from American Idol!
Haha… if heads back here haven't heard of William Hung go do some research… moving on, are you all focused on a group project for TD3 at the moment or do some of you have solo efforts in the pipeline?
TD3: All of my artists have solo and group projects they are working on or have plans for. Mic Stylz just dropped the "College Drop Outs", E3 just dropped the "Beantown Beatdown Mixtape", Grime is working on "Tha EP", Stylz is working on an EP with Bring it Back Entertainment of Virgina, and Stylz is working on "Lost & Found", Okwerdz is working on his upcoming LP which will feature Chino XL, Tech N9ne, MC Juice, Mac Lethal, etc. and production from Domingo, Copywrite, Terrorwrist, EX-I, etc… plus I'm working on the TD3 Productions "Back to School Mixtape Vol.2" which will feature all of my artists as well as some of the biggest names in underground hip-hop in the US - hiphopmerch.com pricks!
Ok, you sound busy…so what about playing out at live events, given your busy schedule how regular do you do this and are there any night heads travelling over to your area should check?
TD3: They should check any shows I put on! And it depends on how often…
DJ Hevan: It's up and down with shows, sometimes six in a month and sometimes one a month…
Grime tha MC: My live show needs work, but E3 puts on one of the best live shows in Boston, a complete hip-hop group wit three emcees and a DJ, the songs are live and the freestyles are the best you'll see in Boston… and for Awk, the dude is a beast, by the end of his set, you'll be throwing your panties at him – one of the best freestylers in the country hands down. Okwedz: Shit I play everywhere all the time just keep checking my website for more updates Okwerds.com...
I have heard that college and university radio is now the main platform for underground and independent artists, how true is this?
TD3: Very – but you also have some real DJ's out there that their stations allow them to have a whole show that is dedicated to new/underground/local hard working hip-hop acts…. on-air DJ's like DJ Jon, D-tension, Gee-Spin… so its hot to hear my guys' shit played on commercial radio to hundreds of thousands of listeners.
How much of a stranglehold has big business got on the media output in the USA and what effect is this having on underground hiphop?
TD3: Well, big business couldn't give a shit about what's good and what's not. What's "good hip hop" to them is, whatever makes the most money – and we all know what kind of weak shit that is. But I honestly believe, that many of the underground artists that are out now, definitely including any of the TD3 Camp, can easily be played on many commercial stations and MTV etc as it is now. Kanye West is definitely going to be a big help in helping achieve this. The demand for anything with his name associated with it is crazy. And Kanye's got a great taste for real hip-hop i.e. Dilated Peoples, Slum Village, Mos Def, Common, Talib, etc, so anything he touches, gets spins like crazy. He has the ability and will to help the underground rise up and people will see the talent that is out there. But big business has a lot of control over what gets played… Payola is very deep into radio and other outlets for music… even venues, magazines and TV etc… just look at Clear Channel…
OK, moving on, how has 9/11 and all the troubles that have come since then affected underground hiphop artists and their output?
DJ Hevan: I don't really see how 9/11 has directly affected hip hop… or maybe I'm not thinking deep enough…
TD3: It could have, maybe not directly, but indirectly. Its been mainly artists like Immortal Technique, MC Exposition, and Sage Francis that have helped bring out truth via their music into this whole matter.
Grime tha MC: personally, 9/11 didn't effect me or the scene I'm in… things like that only make people more hungry…
Does the state of the world and the recent experiences of the US in terms of its 'War on Terrorism' take centre stage as a lyrical subject amongst the underground hiphop scene?
Eye: I'm actually surprised that the war on terrorism has not taken more of a centre stage. I mean, maybe it's just who I'm listening to.
Okwerdz: Mmmmm… I'd say that there are many songs out that have to do with terrorism and political content all over…
Grime tha MC: Definitely, in the Boston area MC Exposition and the Foundation have put out amazing songs with lyrics about the war, the president, and other political issues – you should definitely check them out.
I suppose what I'm getting at is has the socially conscious side of rap grown or declined since 9/11?
Epimpadelic: Grown in a different way then before… more emotional and more of something everyone can relate to and understand…
Grime tha MC: My conscious has definitely grown since 9/11- through hip-hop I've learned a lot about the real motivation about the war. Hip-hop will give you the real truth, Immortal Technique is a beast!
Is there a difference in how outspoken the underground is on political issues in comparison to those emcees who have 'made it' and have MTV as their main platform?
Eye: Well, it's easiest to compare this to college underground radio and commercial mainstream radio. Underground radio can tackle more touchy and political issues because they have no sponsors to abide by or quota to make, or even really audience to alienate where as commercial radio has to be a lot more careful for many reasons. Some may be sponsors, listener approval, shit, standards committees etc
Grime tha MC: well yeah, and mainstream/label artists don't or can't say what they really want to because they are slaves to their label – what with ghost writers and people mapping out their LPs, the focus of their LPs are to make a quick buck and not to educate people. There are no boundaries in the underground, you can say whatever the fuck you want!
You've talked quite a bit about battling and playing live, how important is freestyle to you guys? Does it help develop your skills and maybe even bond as a crew?
Okwerdz: Freestyle is one of the most important things to me – it's how I started rhymin' in the first place. I religiously do it 24 hours a day when I'm not writing – I love it more than any other part of hip hop.
TD3: I personally don't rap but watching my artists in their cypher sessions is one of the dopest things to experience – it is hiphop at its purest. No turntables, no mic, no beat machine, nothing and if you got a beatbox going, you don't need anything but yourself. I personally feel that my artists are some of the most talented off-the-top MC's in the world – and I know hip-hop. I live Hip Hop – I'm constantly hearing new shit… and no one impresses me off-the-top like my artists do.
Do you guys have 9-5 jobs as well as what you do for hip-hop?
Eye: Yes, unfortunately…
Stylz: Me too, I work for the US's largest telephone company, Verizon, in sales. If anyone reading this ever moves to the States, let me know because I'll hook you up with a killer long distance plan with DSL!
TD3: Yup me as well. I'm in the school department. Behavioral Specialist at an Alternative School in Springfield, MA. This is my third year in this field, and even though it pays less than a janitor that works at a school, the fact that I know I'm making some positive influences with most of the kids is a great feeling. No matter how deep I get into this hip-hop shit, I'm always going to find ways to do things for underprivileged kids. And by the way, working in this field has definitely proved the saying that "the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree" in 99% of the kids I work with.
Grime tha MC: I'm a full time college student for now, but in a year I'm have a 9 to 5 by day, super-emcee by night…
Okwerdz: Yah and I own a restaurant that I work at six days a week when I'm not on the road. DJ Hevan: Well I say "Forgetta 9 to 5 I got no job please/but I still spend money like it grows on trees" – that's what Dese spits… I DJ for sluts – zoo mass sluts that is…
Grime tha MC: Haha… yes you do…....."Umass Peking Garden sluts" ,,,,, oh man that was the shit, I saw way to many thongs that night, you was screaming on the mic like Flex!
Hah sounds goods… so how do the workers balance their music and other things, I mean how much work does running the of TD3 Productions involve?
TD3:Well like I had said before, about 90% of my time gets dedicated to TD3 Productions in one way or another – designing flyers, promoting, networking, getting my artists on collabo's, on radio, on TV shows, DVD's, websites, interviews, etc…. as well as building with other promoters, artists and managers, putting shows together, getting my artists on shows, finding the best prices for things we need, mass emails, listening to demos, listening to kids tell me how dope their boy is, getting t-shirts made up, bugging my webmaster for updates, running my online store & selling CDs on www.HipHopMerch.com, going to the post office, getting copies made, racking up my cell phone bill, dealing with email, IM's, my artists calling me for things they need, getting their CD's for sale in stores and online, trying to get reviews done of my artists' material, hollering at DJ's for mixtape appearances for my guys, etc. etc. etc. – nevermind working on my own mixtapes, and everything else! But I know its all going to pay off in the near future. I use tunnel vision to focus on what my goal in my life is… my goal for my company and my artists – I believe you get what you put into something so I'm expecting just that – years of dollars and fame n recognition!
You sound a busy busy man… so what's the long term goal for each one of you? Where do you hope hiphop will get you?
Eye: Mine is to make the music I want and get paid for it.
Okwerdz: I'm basically going to work my ass off for years putting out independent albums and just hustle my ass and make a million dollars. Each project I do, the budget will get bigger and bigger for promotions, music videos, magazine ads, etc… and I'll just keep banging out that hard hip hop music and maybe I'll get picked up by a major but either way I'm going to be rich from hard work.
Mic Stylz: Well mine is to get an LP of original material out and watch the love, hate and money pour in. Oh, and I'm looking for a nice lady to bare my children to!
Grime tha MC: For me the ultimate goal is to blow commercial, TRL and all that, but my realistic goal is just getting some recognition in the underground, like Immortal Technique status, or Jedi Mind, Non Phixtion etc and I just want to do some shows outside the US, I would love to tour Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.
DJ Hevan: World supremacy….I just want to go on tour to man, and possibly impregnate some UK chicks!
Well, we do have a rep for high pregnancy rates amongst our youth but I'm going to shut up before I dig myself a hole… so to finish, any final words? Shout outs? Things you want to get off your chest maybe?
Okwerdz: Keep checking www.okwerdz.com for any music videos or product and watch out for the single "Time for a change" produced by Domingo – dropping real soon! Thanks for interviewing me…peace!
Epimpadelic: Quote… "it's etriple.net/ u sniffle snot sweat/ we had your bitch up in the lab she was drippin hot wet" – Excetera of E3…
Mic Stylz: Yo check www.Mic-Stylz.com and www.HipHopMerch.com – Go on there and cop my new mixtape "the College Dropouts". I need lunch money!
Eye: And go to www.etriple.net and peep the rawroots.com review of the E3 LP. You can buy either of our releases (the E3 LP or The Beantown Beatdown) at www.hiphopmerch.com
Grime tha MC: Big ups to Mic Stylz, E3, Awkweeeeeeeezy, TD3 for putting in way to much work and losing ridiculous amounts of money – and what's up with them killing Adriana on the Soprano's without letting us see her tits? Wow! I'm pissed, not even a quick nip, not one sex scene, we were so close wit that accident episode – I mean there are plenty of underwear scenes but I can't pause the on demand and beat dick to that!
TD3: Haha yes, thank ya'll so much for taking the time out to interview us and give us some exposure to real hip-hop fans in UK Shout outs to everyone in the UK that listens to the artists that I work with – and what about flying us out there to ROCK some shows email@example.com! Also, like the others say, check www.HipHopMerch.com for prices cheaper than what your mother looks like at happy hour! The TD3 Productions Camp isn't to be slept on, if ya'll dig some true talent, the hardest working team in hip-hop, then support us and the stuff we bring to ya'll I love all of you haha!