Fam-Lay: Ties That Bind

The Star Trak camp is all about sci-fi and Fam-Lay might as well be Back To the Future. We revisit Norfolk, Virginia’s “Rock N’ Roll” champ three years after his Traintogo debut floated into outerspace aboard the Def Jam ship and wasn’t released. Naturally frustrated like his Clipse label-mates, Fam-Lay had to re-work his game […]

The Star Trak camp is all about sci-fi and Fam-Lay might as well be Back To the Future. We revisit Norfolk, Virginia’s “Rock N’ Roll” champ three years after his Traintogo debut floated into outerspace aboard the Def Jam ship and wasn’t released. Naturally frustrated like his Clipse label-mates, Fam-Lay had to re-work his game plan. Fortunately, the setback was just an intermission that sharpened 30-year-old Nathaniel Johnson’s skills. After cameos on The Clipse’s Lord Willin’ and Neptunes Present… Clones, the Huntersville aficionado is creating a buzz for fans that have been impatiently waiting on the release of Dat Missle (Star Trak/Interscope). From the perspective of an “everyday dude,” Fam is ready to play Virginia’s musical tour-guide. The lyrical hopscotch on his single, “Da Beeper Record,” complemented by a Hype Williams video, is only a forecast of what to expect on Dat Missle.  AllHipHop.com talks to Fam-Lay about going boldly where no rapper has ever gone before.AllHipHop.com: Is it true that you heard about getting dropped from Def Jam from Allhiphop? What was your reaction?Fam-Lay: I had actually heard about the article from a friend right before I found out but I knew it was coming. I could tell by the way they weren’t pushing it.  But I ain’t got no ill feelings for L.A. Reid. He could have been an a###### about it. He could have been a d####### like, Yo we’re not going to let him release it and put the album on hold, so let him go. I was kinda salty because I knew [the process] would take more time.AllHipHop.com: Since Traintogo was never released did you transfer any of the songs to the new album, Dat Missle?Fam-Lay: I run into a lot of people on the streets like yo whatever happened to “Ambulance?” There were certain records like that that I just couldn’t get rid of. And if I felt like that about them then I kept them for this album to really make it complete.AllHipHop.com: So who did you work with on the new album?Fam-Lay: There’s a lot of people on this album that I’m a fan of myself. For production I got The Neptunes of course.  DJ Toomp. We got Shorty Red. One of the features I’m most excited about is the one with Jadakiss, “Mr. Treat Your Nose.” I got B.G. on a song and David Banner on a song called “Ten Toes Down” and Three Six Mafia.AllHipHop.com: How have you grown lyrically on this album? Fam-Lay: I think I got sharper you know what I mean? I think I’ve always been sharp but now it’s more creative. Since the last album I’ve seen more things and been through more. Usually I rap about things I’m going through right then and there. Now I’ve got three extra years of stuff to talk about. AllHipHop.com: The 757 area is like a mixture of NY transplants and southern artists. How do you identify your sound?Fam-Lay: I think I’m blessed because in VA we’ve got the best of both worlds. I can go both ways. When people think of the South they think of the beat. And when they think of the North they think of the lyrics. I can get it on any beat I want; a South beat and still feel at home or I can get an up North beat, an East Coast beat and do my thing too. I’ve learned how to adapt and use that to my advantage. AllHipHop.com: On your website you talk about how hard it is trying to get put on in VA. With so much talent coming from the area why is that?Fam-Lay: There’s not that many avenues we can take if you trying to do this. It’s not like we can knock on a door or walk down the street into a building like Bad Boy. We don’t got none of that. And it ain’t like a lot of people come down here. We just gotta run into them. It’s like hitting the lottery. We don’t really got that many opportunities or avenues to be heard or seen. So at the end of the day if you do it and you got that chance I got, then you’re lucky. AllHipHop.com: How did you link up with Pharrell and the Star Trak camp?Fam-Lay: His brother and I used to stay in the same neighborhood. So it wasn’t like someone introduced me to him. Pharrell used to come out there to see his family, me and him used to hang out. He was talking about music back then. Star Trak back then and space ships and all that s###. He was the only one who really talked about music. Like I said if you told people you want to rap they’d be like ‘Are you crazy man?’ You can spend the money on the keyboard; I’m going to get the Jordans. But now trying to rap makes a lot more sense. AllHipHop.com: You got on the Clipse’s first album and then your joint “Rock N’ Roll” made it to Clones. What kind of feedback did you get after that?Fam-Lay: When you’re thinking of a record or trying to think of a concept for a song you’re not really sure how people will take it you know? In some cases you don’t even think about that.  Like take for instance when I did the joint on the Clipse album a lot of people didn’t know I rapped. I ain’t let nobody hear none of that and when it came out people was like ‘oh s###.’ A lot of people liked it and came up to me and said they wanted to hear more.  With the “Rock N’ Roll” joint I did for the Clones, I got a lot more positive feedback.AllHipHop.com: The Clipse have the VA hustler theme locked down with their music. Are you on the same wavelength or do you veer off in your own direction?Fam-Lay: Man. I’m more of an everyday dude you know what I’m saying? I’m just that dude hanging out. I got records for hustlers, I do that. But that ain’t all it’s about. I’m trying to give you all of the scenes of Virginia. The hustler part, the party part, the bad part, the murders and drive bys, all of that.  But from the point of view of the average, everyday dude. I got a record called “Ambulance” talking about here comes the ambulance—about putting somebody in the back of the ambulance. On the same album I got “Da Beeper Record,” which is all about getting money. There’s another record called “Strung Out” and that’s about women. I want it to be like a brochure. As soon as you get to a city and get off the plane where’s the hotspot? That’s how I want my album to be.  AllHipHop.com: You didn’t want “Da Beeper Record” to be your single but you kind of got outvoted. Now that it’s doing well do you feel differently about your decision?Fam-Lay: I was flying to L.A. to record with Three Six Mafia and my album was done. That was the last record we recorded. And nobody heard the finished version but me. Pharrell hadn’t heard it. So Pharrell’s assistant played it in the studio while I was gone and everybody went crazy. And you gotta go with what the bosses want. But I like the record I didn’t think of it as the first single but I like the record. AllHipHop.com: You re-shot the video for your first single “Da Beeper Record.” How do you feel about the final product?Fam-Lay: Yeah, Hype Williams did it. It came out great. The first one we shot in Virginia and it didn’t really come out right. It just didn’t feel right. It’s wild how things work out because [we] worked with Hype on the second joint in Miami. Three full days of shooting and the last day Hype was like let’s get some shots in Virginia so we came back home and got the last ones. So I got Hype Williams to do the video and we got to film back home in Virginia. [Story continues below]AllHipHop.com: Your debut album is coming out in a tough time in terms of album sales. Is that pressure to go platinum a real concern of yours?Fam-Lay: Yeah the game has changed a little bit. But I don’t think that’s a big issue. Of course I want it to go platinum or whatever but I ain’t really stressed out about that. I just want to make sure get it out to the people that I’ve been running into in the streets like ‘what’s up with the album?’ You know? Get it to the people that have been waiting through the setbacks.