Billy Danze (M.O.P) on touring with Gangstarr, ‘Street Certified’ and more!
Billy Danze has been putting in work since 1992, as one half of the most definitive hardcore hip hop act ever, making their mark with the debut ‘How about some hardcore’. Alongside Lil Fame, MOP introduced the world to that brutal in-your-face music, which frequently blended jazz samples and lyrical prowess with bulldozing delivery!
22 years down the line MOP are still still going hard, and recently dropped their acclaimed EP ‘Street Certified‘. We spoke to Billy recently as he discussed his ‘Rap United Nations’ movement, touring with Gangstarr and THAT cover of Sade’s classic.
Being in the game since 1992, what’s your main kind of motivation when you’re in a studio, when you’re going to bring in that real music, how do you get in the zone?
You know what bro? It’s just a passion that we have and we want to make music, the way nobody else makes it because that’s how we want to hear it…
Tell me about your movement the Rap United Nations. How is that connected with We build hits. Is that like a partnership?
Rap United Nations basically unites rappers around the world – we don’t do it like other crews; other crews try to keep it for themselves. Even though we keep to ourselves, our crew is the biggest crew in the music industry. We got 8000 people strong, throughout UK, Germany, Portugal, France, Sweden, Switzerland and all around the US.
We do mixtape projects with artists in each country, teaming up with one of the biggest DJ’s in the country. We shoot promo-videos, release singles and pick the top artist that we believe were some of the more talented ones on the projects, and even give them record deals on We Build Hits. We got eight artists from Raps United Nations. Now we’re moving around the globe and they all got incredible music man.
What has it been like with the UK? What’s your interaction been like so far in the UK?
Oh in the UK it’s crazy – The first Raps United Nations project I did with DJ 279, and we drew a lot of talent from out there man. So now, you know we didn’t pull anyone from the UK to put on We Build Hits because most of the guys out there were really into the independent thing. Great artists out there man, like great artists, they have the passion that we have.
Right now we doing like a fundraiser for the company and I’m calling on every M.O.P fan, every Billy Danze fan. Every music fan around the world, to go to Envygogo.com and search We Build Hits and make a contribution big or small it doesn’t matter like we everything’s appreciated.
MOP has been going a long time – If you could pick one or two most memorable live shows, which are the ones that stand out in your mind??
Ah man there’s so many, because like you said like we’ve been around for a while! In the UK it would be Stratford Rex (2001) and Jazz Café (2010) but I would say the entire tour with Gang-Starr gave us a lot of great memories.
One of the most brilliant concepts was a track off the Marxmen Cinema project, where you two bodied Sade’s classic mellow song ‘By Your Side’. Why did you guys decide to jump on that track specifically?
People look at us as animals or machines, when actually we’re human beings… We may be at a vulnerable moment, and we we’ll listen to a beat and let the beat tell us exactly what to do.
It’s kind of like some ecstasy – when you take ecstasy whatever mood you’re in when you take it, it enhances. So whatever mood we were in at the time when we heard that beat, the beat just kind of enhances it and allowed us to do what it is that we did to it.
Yeah 100%. No it’s just funny because the original was like the opposite mood of what you guys bring, you know that song is just a different perspective altogether. You completely flipped it.
Do you think that the way record labels have been operating in the last 20 years or 30 years in Hip-Hop. Do you think artists still need a label in order to blow?
Well no, artists don’t necessarily need the label. The artists need labels’ funding though, but they don’t have the passion that they used to have for the business anymore, you know what I mean? Like myself, I got my first deal the very first time I went into a studio. The song wasn’t even finished and I got a deal.
So was they in the studio and they heard you guys do your thing and they’re like snapping you up?
No, no. What happened was I couldn’t finish the recording ‘How about some hardcore’ as I had never used so much energy rapping. My manager took it to Select Records and we had deal the very next week and the song wasn’t even done!
So what’s the major difference in 2014?
Nowadays they want most of the artists to have all of these twitter followers; YouTube views; likes on Facebook. That’s kind of hard for a young artist, so you can’t really even tell if they’re good or not because nobody will pay them any attention because the passion is going out of the whole industry.
Tell me about the new album, who is behind it production wise? What’s the motive on the new album?
Well, the first project is an EP called Street Certified. We put out a track featuring Mobb Deep which is titled ‘Street Certified’ so we named the EP after that. We got production from a female producer named Jackie Moto from the West Coast, and we got production from my boy Freda, and a few others.