AZ: Superhero with no Disguise

In an industry full of loud, braggadocios rappers feeding gimmicks to the masses, it’s a relief to see that some of the strong who move quietly aren’t being silenced. AZ is definitely one of those who has been standing firm for over a decade, and has no plans for slowing down. One of the signs […]

In an industry full of loud, braggadocios rappers feeding gimmicks to the masses, it’s a relief to see that some of the strong who move quietly aren’t being silenced. AZ is definitely one of those who has been standing firm for over a decade, and has no plans for slowing down.

One of the signs of a true artist is the drive to improve himself with each endeavor. AZ works to better himself on each new album and has proven to be the truth with each effort; the only person better than him is him, next week. After major label woes at Motown/Universal, AZ stepped to Koch, where last year’s A*W*O*L was considered one of his best, by fans new and old. Following that same recipe, and reusing a lot of the same personnel, his new album The Format and his label Quiet Money reassure that though the money might be quiet, it’s still enough to keep going. Like his label moniker, AZ’s rather quiet, rather unique, and rather motivated looking at his next catalog mark. The new album you have coming out is The Format… what can we expect from you on this album?

AZ: Well on this album it’s AZ, once again… and I just feel like every album gets greater. So this is just like AZ to the tenth power. As far as production, I’m dealing with [DJ] Premier once again, I have [Lil’] Fame from M.O.P.; I guess he’s been a student of Premier’s… and I’ve got a lot of up and coming producers that’s real hungry on the album. Do you feel like with the release of every album you’re different, or is your format essentially the same?

AZ: I mean, with every release, it just seems like I try to outdo the last, so it just makes the next one greater. That’s my motivation: my own albums. So you’re just trying to top yourself?

AZ: All the time… In “The Truth”, you say “Measure my wealth by realness, I know what’s good, no meals missed, I keep one foot in the hood…” How important is it to you that you stay connected to where you’ve come up from?

AZ: I mean, you’ve always gotta stay grounded at the end of the day. There are a lot of things that go wrong but when you’re dealing with music, you’re like the CNN of the hood, and you’ve gotta be there. That’s the best way to really get the news first hand. So I always keep myself accessible to family and friends. And I’m right in the studio, so that’s my life; I always keep one foot in the hood. On the new album you have a song with Little Brother called “Rise and Fall”, which I thought was the most perfect and surprising collaboration I’ve heard in a long time. Can you tell me how that came about?

AZ: They were dealing with Koch around the same time I was dealing with Koch, about a year or so ago, and I heard the album that they released last year, [The Minstrel Show] and it was critically acclaimed, it was serious. I liked their style overall… they’re like me; we’re intelligent thugs at the end of the day. So I had to work with them, and once we started working, it was like a magic vibe ‘cause it is what it is… it was like we spoke from the same breath. To me, that’s definitely one of the good joints on the album. Are there any other tracks that particularly stand out to you personally?

AZ: Yea… I have another collabo with M.O.P. that’s serious. And I have another with Jha Jha from the Dipset and that’s left field to me too… and the record is beautiful. You’re one of the greatest rappers as far as lyrics and longevity… how have you evolved since “visualizing the realism of life and actuality”?

AZ: You know why? ‘Cause I think nothing that I did was premeditated, everything just happened in the order that it was supposed to happen then, you get it? I guess that’s what keeps me on my feet, being competitive with myself, and I’ve just seen so much and I’ve grown as a man and it show every time I start a new album. So you’d say your progression has been natural?

AZ: Oh, no doubt. You were in our 2005 Year End Awards for “Most Slept-On Albums.” Do you think Koch could have gone about promoting your last album, A*W*O*L*, differently, pushed it harder?

AZ: Of course… because it was my first time dealing with independent at that time, but it wasn’t their first time dealing with an artist from major or independent, but I guess they were skeptical and at the same time, I was skeptical, so no one kinda put their best foot forward. But I think now that I’ve got my hand on the situation, and how the independent game is run, we’ll see better progress. What can we expect to hear from Quiet Money Records after The Format?

AZ: After The Format, I think I’ve got like five more, 10 more albums in me. So The Format isn’t by far your last album?

AZ: Oh never; I decided I’m not going nowhere, I’m gonna stay down for a minute. And I’ve got a few artists that I’m bringing to the table and I want them to shine, you know? Do you have a favorite album of yours or no?

AZ: Like any artist would say they like all their albums, [I would too]. But I like Aziatic, it was one of my good ones, from the production, and I just felt it touched all areas in my life. What else is next for you? At one point in addition to your music, you had a few other endeavors, such as a restaurant and movies… what else do you have your hands in at this point?

AZ: Well, right now the movie that I did do is coming out, [Envy] so I’ll see how the fans gravitate towards that, and then from there, just focusing on Quiet Money, doing what I gotta do. The restaurant thing, you know, you’ve gotta be hands on for that, so I put that to the back burner for a minute. So right now it’s just a focus on Quiet Money and the movie thing. Other then the fact that the album is coming out next month and they should listen… what do you want people reading this to walk away knowing about you?

AZ: That I’m one of the greatest of all time, and I’m not going nowhere. I’m one of the pioneers of the Hip-Hop movement and I’ve added so much to it.