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 Allhiphop.com
a lesson on what it takes to move the crowd with no pencil to be found in the
Allhiphop.com: 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
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.
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,
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…
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.
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.
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.