Craig G: Battles By Fire

In Hip-Hop, wack freestyles are like teenagers trying to purchase alcohol before they turn 21. They aren’t going to get very far, and they can be guaranteed a gas-face or two along the way. The art of "off the top of the head rhymes" is a lost, but precious skill, tried by many but mastered […]

In Hip-Hop, wack freestyles are like teenagers

trying to purchase alcohol before they turn 21. They aren’t going to get very

far, and they can be guaranteed a gas-face or two along the way.

The art of "off the top of the head rhymes"

is a lost, but precious skill, tried by many but mastered by a choice few. Craig

G. is the blueprint of what a freestyle specialist is, and quite possibly the

greatest the Hip-Hop world has ever seen. Or will see.

A legend whose roots can be traced back to the

days of the Juice Crew and underground classics such as "Symphony,"

Craig G. has been a major player in Hip-Hop’s underworld for some 17 years.

He has lent his venomous lyrics to many an MC,

most recently penning the freestyle battle lyrics in Eminem’s "8-Mile,"

which is by far one of Hip-Hop’s greatest tributes to battle rap.

Craig recently went back to the lab to record

tracks for his latest bangers, his official bootleg mixtape and his D&D

Records debut, "This Is Now," which is due to hit stores on May 20th.

The legendary mic controller gives

a lesson on what it takes to move the crowd with no pencil to be found in the

building. Talk about the new mixtape that’s

floating around in the streets right now.

Craig G: I put out a mixtape because it was like

a loan. I finished the album early, and we was a few months in between, so we

figured we’d do something right now. It’s a bunch of exclusive freestyles and

a couple of joints from the album. That’s how it came about. It’s just something

for the streets, you know.

AllHipHop: Has it hit the streets yet or when is it

supposed to hit the streets?

Craig: It’s all over New York right now.

AllHipHop: Is NY the only place you can find the mixtape?

Craig: It’s in Boston, Atlanta, and it’s on its

way to Tennessee, but if you need something wherever you at, just call the label

and we’ll send a box out to you.

AllHipHop: No doubt. How did the situation with D&D

come about?

Craig: I used to do a lot of joints up there

with them. I always hung out at the studio with other producers and artists,

and it came about when I got off the set of this movie I was working on.

AllHipHop: Just for those who don’t know, let them

know what movie that was.

Craig: 8-Mile.

AllHipHop: We’re going to discuss the movie deal at

length in a second. D&D is a historical label, and anybody who’s anybody

in Hip-Hop has done some work for those guys. How do you feel about being affiliated

with such a renowned label?

Craig: It’s good because of the type of music

I do. It matches up real well.

AllHipHop: How long have you been a part of the label?

Craig: For like a year now. We just finished

the album; it’s just tight, man. We knocked it out real quick.

AllHipHop: Word. Let’s get into some Juice Crew updates

for a minute. Are you still in contact with any of those cats these days?

Craig: Actually yeah. Marley (Marl) did one of

the singles on the album, and I see (Masta) Ace and Kane all the time.

AllHipHop: Did any of them make an appearance on the


Craig: No, because we did the mixtape so fast.

But whatever we talk about gets done immediately.

AllHipHop: That’s history all in itself right there.

Let’s get into the 8-Mile situation, man. What was your capacity in that movie?

Craig: I wrote a lot of the lyrics for the dudes

that was going against Eminem in the movie. It started out when Eminem was in

the Rap Olympics out in Cali. Before all the stuff jumped off with him, I judged

that battle. We kind of forged a little relationship then. So, when it was time

to do the movie, there were a few actors, and they was like, "how do we

coach these people to do this?" and he just picked me. We jumped it off

and got it rocking.

AllHipHop: This is how y’all initially hooked up?

Craig: Yeah. My lawyers worked with his, so it

pretty much worked into its own, you know?

AllHipHop: You are a world-class freestyle specialist.

Can you tell me about how many battles you’ve been in over the course of your


Craig: A ton of them, man. You get pigeonholed

almost, you know what I mean?

AllHipHop: It almost turns into a typecast situation,

right? That’s all you become known for.

Craig: Yeah, and that’s why I did this album

right here. That’s why the album is called "This Is Now." I mean,

I’ve been in a ton of them. I’ve been in countless states, just everywhere,

you know?

AllHipHop: Beside yourself, who do you think is the

top MC when it comes to off the top lyrics?

Craig: Proof (D-12) is real nice. He’s not the

top guy, but Big Tigger is pretty nice actually. I’ll give it to him.

AllHipHop: Tigger gets in the basement and does the

damn thing, right?

Craig: He freestyles better than a lot of signed

artists sometimes on there. There’s a lot of dudes, man. But now, I went head

first into this album because I proved that already. I did everything with that

already, you know?

AllHipHop: When you used to engage in those battles,

what goes through your mind when you look across the stage and see your next


Craig: It’s like sports to me. You feed off of

the energy the guy is giving you, and you just play your best out there. You

got to stay one up on him. It’s hard when you are thinking about the next line

before you even say it.

AllHipHop: Was there any nervousness involved, or do

you even have room to be nervous?

Craig: Nah. It’s like you are playing ball; you

want to win. If you have any second thoughts, they can make you lose immediately.

AllHipHop: Who is the one cat that you’d like to battle

that you never got around to battling, and why?

Craig: Umm…I can’t really say, man. Like

I said, most people give me respect on that. Nobody ever tried to disrespect

me to the point where I felt like I wanted to battle anybody. It always came

to me; I never wanted to be the troublemaker of it, nah mean? I never really

sat there and thought about who I wanted to battle. If you come, I’m here, you

know what I mean?

AllHipHop: In your own opinion, do you think you can

freestyle better than you can write rhymes?

Craig: Absolutely not. I’m way better with writing.

AllHipHop: Why is that?

Craig: I feel like I’ve accomplished everything

freestyle-wise, and I focused in on that already…so it gives me a new found


AllHipHop: Let’s change the climate of this conversation

for a second. Where do you think Hip-Hop is right now as opposed to where it

was five or ten years ago?

Craig: It’s pretty much about how dudes feel

like they can’t get their foot in the door. Sometimes, it’s really more or less

the labels. They want the next of the last thing you heard, and that doesn’t

move it in a positive direction, you know? They say, "We want you to do

the next this record or the next that record," and that doesn’t move nothing

forward. That’s where it’s at right now. Before, there was a lot more creativity

and a lot more freeness. But, when you play the game now, you got to follow

a certain formula, and it doesn’t make it fresh anymore for Hip-Hop, you know?

AllHipHop: I totally agree. Who’s the best in the game

overall in terms of what they bring to the table, what they’ve taken from it,

and how they elevate Hip-Hop as a whole?

Craig: I love Eminem, Outkast, and you got to

respect LL and all that the man did.

AllHipHop: Right! Anyone that says LL isn’t one of

the greatest of all-time is just plain stupid, man.

Craig: Absolutely! Of course, Run-DMC forever…

AllHipHop: Forever!

Craig: My thing is to create longevity, man.

I’d rather have five platinum albums than one that sold five million.

AllHipHop: A lot of people misconstrue sales with greatness,

and it doesn’t quite work that way.

Craig: Exactly.

AllHipHop: Do you think there are more wack rappers

than decent rappers out right now?

Craig: Without a doubt…absolutely! That’s

another 40-minute conversation we need to have another day!

AllHipHop: (laughs) I want to get into you as a producer

since you do that as well. Who’s your favorite producer, and how can you describe

your style of music?

Craig: I put beats together, and I won’t play

them for nobody because I feel like I’m still learning; I’m not all the way

in yet, you know what I mean? I was recording first. When I’m recording beats

and stuff, I’m usually doing vocals, so I wasn’t focusing in on it a lot. I

got a machine and started f###### with it, but it hasn’t been perfected yet,

so I can’t really call myself a producer yet.

AllHipHop: And who’s your favorite producer right now?

Craig: I love Dre, I love Premier, I love what

Nottz does, I love Rockwilder stuff…I mean I love Rock’s stuff; Rock is

the man. He can give you any kind of sound. There’s a lot of people, man. Havoc

(Mobb Deep) is crazy…they never mention Havoc in the list of great producers,

and he’s sick with his.

AllHipHop: When you get to the point where you have

perfected your sound and want to market your skills, what rapper are you going

to call up first to spit on your beat?

Craig: Pharoahe Monch.

AllHipHop: Word?

Craig: Yeah, I like him a lot.

AllHipHop: He had two songs I love to death…the

song he did with Styles P. and the song he did off the "Training Day"


Craig: That was hot, too.

AllHipHop: I don’t know if you can see that far down

the line, but what are you looking to do in the future with your career?

Craig: My album doesn’t drop until May 20th.

We got Large Professor, Alchemist, Rockwilder, Marley Marl, The Beatminerz,

Nottz, Premier…it’s just crazy! It’s classic Hip-Hop…it’s nothing

spectacular, its just Hip-Hop.