Blaq Poet: Queensbridge Survivor

The landmark Bridge Wars ended and made careers . The latter applies to Blaq Poet, who was then a brash, cocky teen looking to make a name for himself at the expense of KRS-One’s BDP (Boogie Down Productions) and affiliates like Just-Ice.   Now over 20 years later, Poet is a musical elder statesman in […]

The landmark Bridge Wars ended and made careers


The latter applies to Blaq Poet, who was then a brash, cocky teen looking to make a name for himself at the expense of KRS-One’s BDP (Boogie Down Productions) and affiliates like Just-Ice.


Now over 20 years later, Poet is a musical elder statesman in his legendary Queensbridge neighborhood.


And on Tuesday (June 30), the Queens vet released his most anticipated album in the Blaqprint, executive-produced by long-time collaborator and legend DJ Premier.


With a Hip-Hop market drastically different from the one he entered in 1987, Blaq Poet is out to prove the seminal East Coast Boom Bap sound still has a viable audience. Obviously, Blaqprint is a play on the word blueprint. What was the process and direction you were looking to take this new album?


Poet: It’s all street, everything is street. It’s Hip-Hop, hardcore, [and] gangsta. It’s more Hip-Hop than anything else; hardcore, amped up music that n*ggas haven’t heard in a long time. [It’s] a lot of hood tales, stories, bragging a lot, [and] talking a lot of sh*t. I’m basically doing me. You’ve been working with Premier for years now. I know you guys have developed chemistry, and the thing about Premier is that he can be a perfectionist. He has no problems telling an emcee he’s not feeling the rhyme and to do it over. Just looking at your own career, how do you feel you’ve progressed lyrically since your last album in 2006?


Poet: Every time with me it gets better and better. It seems like when dudes get older they get weaker…they just suck! Me? I don’t know. I stay current. My team keeps me young. My dudes keep me level-headed. They let me know if it’s not popping. But everything be popping [laughs]. So I’m going to keep it going until I hear otherwise. When you first came into the game in the early to mid 80s, singles were a lot more prominent than albums. It was the singles where you made your name. Now in 2009 it’s come full circle where now many artists focus more on singles and ringtones than their albums. Even though that’s a surface similarity, what are the main differences you hear in singles now compared to when you first started?


Poet: Dudes nowadays aren’t even rapping a full 3 16’s. They’re just doing 2 verses, a long ass chorus, and that’s the song [laughs]. They’re not even going hard. It’s more party rhyme about the money than anything. But everything comes back 360, man. You were around 15-16 years old when you put out “All Hell’s Breaking Loose.” You went at everyone that had a name at that time, including T La Rock, Melle Mel, LL Cool J, Rakim, Kool Moe Dee, and the Ultramagnetic MC’s. If you look at the response to what happened between Method Man and Joe Budden, these days you’re expected to have a good resume before you test a veteran. When you came in it wasn’t like that. Even if you didn’t have a strong backing, you were given a shot against anyone if you called them out. Why do you think today’s battling dynamic is so different?

Poet: Yo, if you want to take a chance, take a chance! It don’t matter. If you think you got a shot, go at it. It don’t matter to me. Some dudes are just trying to make a name for themselves. Back then when I did it I just wanted to challenge the best at that time. I figured I was the best. Method Man and Buddens? I don’t know. Budden, he’s nice, and Meth is crazy with it. We’ll see what happens. You’ve always been a street rapper but you can’t be accused of glorifying the gangster lifestyle. The majority of the time I’ve heard you rhyme about a street tale, 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t end well. That lets people know how things turn out 99% of the time if you live that life…


Poet: Yeah! I ain’t glorifying it; I’m just letting people know what it is. Things happen on the streets, drug dudes do a lot of things to make it. I rap about it and then at the end try to wrap it up with a little message. Sometimes it’s just straight ignorant, and other times I got a message to go along with the madness. The one time you were involved in something overtly political was the controversy from the “Who Shot Rudy?” track with your group Screwball. When you guys finished that song, did you expect the media firestorm that followed?



Poet: Nah, we ain’t expect that. It was a solo joint from my man Keron. Everyone had a solo joint on the album. It got a lot of political attention and popped off, but we weren’t expecting that. We went to war with Giuliani! Queens have a very long legacy of elite rappers, especially Queensbridge. But besides the Bridge Wars, the Bridge has never really been united. There’s always been a lot of infighting and tension. Do you think there’s anything in particular that causes these issues?


Poet: It just like brothers man, brothers always fight each other. And it goes back to the hood; people got bad blood with each other over stuff that has nothing to do with rap. But it’s always about competition and trying to outdo the next [man]. But we’re good in Queensbridge. Everybody may have their little beefs here and there, but it’s all good. Nas is unquestionably the biggest star to emerge from Queensbridge. However, there’s other emcees that may have been just as skilled, but didn’t get to that elite level for various reasons. What rappers do you feel had the potential but fell short of reaching that plateau?


Poet: Oh, there’s a lot that’s out there still doing their thing: Cormega, Nature, [and] Horse. There are a whole slew of us out there still going hard. But Nas is [still] the top dog. You’ve gotten to travel and see how Hip-Hop has grown in other countries. Have you noticed a big difference in how people, say from the UK, receive Hip-Hop as opposed to fans back home?


Poet: Fans over there really study, and they know what they’re talking about. The average 17 year old street UK kid knows more than the average 17-18 U.S. kid. They just are really into it. They don’t see you all the time so they just really appreciate it more than Americans. It’s still new to them. They really love and respect the artists. On the album you have a track that stands out to me called “Voices,” where you speculate on what BIG and Tupac would say about the game if they were still alive. You’ve always said you never wanted to be one of those artists that romanticized the past, but I’ve noticed you’ve been speaking about more about the music. Is it a case of you being fed up with what you’re hearing on the radio and that state of Hip-Hop?

Poet: Nah, Hip-Hop is gangster man, it’s good. Everything’s changed, but you got your choices. If you want that hard sh*t, I got that. You want that soft, bubble gum rap, they got that too. If you wanna have fun, party, that’s out there too. There are all types of Hip-Hop to pick what you like and rock with it. People were surprised when you appeared on the “Victory” track off of KRS and Marley Marl’s album Hip-Hop Lives. Did Premier get you two together? How long had you made amends before that track?


Poet: Marley and KRS were working on his album and my name must’ve came up. They got at Primo to get at me real quick to see if I was with it. At first I was like “nah, nah, nah.” But the more I thought about it, I said “it’s Hip-Hop, let’s get it poppin’.” So we squashed that [right there]. Everything is cool now. Out of everybody that went at KRS you probably went at him the hardest, from his character to even going at his then wife Ms. Melody. Is it safe to say you took it personal since in your mind he was trying to stop the Queensbridge movement?

Poet: I was young and ready for war and whatever. So when he disrespected the Bridge, I took that personal. I didn’t really care what he said about the Juice Crew. I didn’t appreciate what he said about Queensbridge. So I had to throw my 2 cents in. Hip-Hop artists have the tendency to deteriorate over the years in terms of skill, but in your case you’re one of very few 80’s rappers to actually get better and update their sound. Is there anything you utilize besides your crew’s feedback to keep your music fresh in today’s market?


Poet: I just got the eye of the tiger. When I hear the beats, I try to say something harder, just trying to be creative with it. You can say the same thing 1,000 times. It’s all about how you say it and how you sound. I try to give a little lesson and show n*ggas how to stay nice, [and] how to keep these words and lyrics, straight verbal abuse. We also got a tribute track on the LP for you cousin KL. I know that was a devastating loss for your family. How difficult was it to put those emotions into paper and put it out there for the fans?


Poet: Yeah man, that’s the first time I ever cried writing a rhyme. That was my dedication to my cuz, my baby blood. KL rest in peace! That’s one of my favorite joints, one of the last joints to get mixed. We had to make sure that was nice and tight for my baby boy. Are there any plans to continue the Screwball name?


Poet: Screwball is coming right up to bat. We got Ty Nitty down with us. We doing a special Screwball tribute album. We got a lot of dudes down, it’s crazy. Screwball forever! Today you hear a lot of people say back in the day battles were all about lyrics and there wasn’t any violence. That wasn’t always true, especially regarding the Bridge Wars since things did get personal. For everyone who didn’t live through it, talk about the atmosphere in Queensbridge and walking through different neighborhoods during the beef.


Poet: Ah man, it was drama. Today’s beef is corny. N*ggas ain’t really trying to dump today and fight. They just keep talking about it. It was more violent than it is now. I remember getting approached by a bunch of dudes from the Bronx in Queens! I was on Queens Plaza going to a radio show and waiting for a train, and these guys on the train were looking at me. I had my jacket that said “The Poet.” They come back a few minutes later off a train and say “yo, you made that record talking about the Bronx?!” I said “yeah!” and they started putting their stuff down, putting up their dukes. So I’m like “c’mon, let’s get it on!” I’m with Craig G’s older brother, my man Smash. He’s a big dude but he had just had a bad motorcycle accident. So he wasn’t good on his feet and they could’ve just pushed him over. But they didn’t know that. So we’re like “let’s fight!” There’s about 7 or 8 of them and 2 of us. But nobody threw no punches. So my train came and we got on and started spitting on them before we rode off. Back then it was funky. As everyone can see, you infuriated a lot of people with your approach to beef, especially Just Ice. He literally wanted your head when he heard “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose.” Knowing his rep back then, did you expect that type of response or were you foreseeing just an on-record battle?


Poet: Just, he’s a maniac. Back then, he took it to the hood. He came to the hood (Queensbridge) with guns and his peoples looking for me. I wasn’t around that day but I was ready. He bumped into MC Shan and told him “where’s Poet?” And Shan was like “I told him not to do that [record]!” And then he growled at Shan and showed him all his gold fronts and said “tell him Jaws is looking for him!” You know, those shark jaws. So I was like aight, all I did was get more guns and get more ready. But me and Just are cool now. When did you guys patch that up? Was it the first time you actually came face to face?


Poet: Once I signed with Premier me and Just met up at D&D headquarters, smoked a blunt, and we laughed about it. He just don’t like that being mentioned [laughs]. But I’m like yo man it’s Hip-Hop. That’s my dude right now. We went through your past and current history, what emcees are you currently appreciating in the game?


Poet: It’s a lot of dudes. G Unit, 50’s nice. You know Cormega, I like what he’s doing with it. My dog MC Eiht, that’s an OG. Young Maylay, he’s from the Westside, too. My man Jay Rock, Royce da 5’9, and Joell Ortiz. There’s a couple of guys out there that are still nice. Premier produced all but two of the tracks on the Blaqprint. Talk about the others producers you worked with? Poet: It was Easy Mo Bee and Gemcrates. They blessed me. Gemcrates is one of the producers Premier just signed to his production company. He’s nice and nasty with it. We went crazy with a nice little concept song in “Sichuwayshunz.” I portray three different dudes. I’m a gangster, a bum, and a hustler. It is three different points of view. I can get creative too; everything ain’t shoot ‘em up, bang bang. But it’s mostly shoot ‘em, bang bang! [laughs] What’s the next project after the *Blaqprint* runs its course?


Poet: I’m ready to break out and do an “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose ‘09” just going at everybody. But I’ll save that for another day and time.