Welcome to the first installment of “In The Lab”, our artist interview series where we sit down with the movers & shakers in the industry and get a inside look at their lives and what it takes them to keep those basslines rumblin’.
Our NYC Correspondent Kinetic N.R.G. sat down with independent hip hop group, Brooklyn Academy’s founder Block McCloud & his wife Fresh Jones, to talk food, juggling their personal life with their music & their new label, Disturbia Music Group.
FRESH JONES: Kinetic would you like a plate of food?
KINETIC: Yeah I would, it smells great in here! (Laughs) This food is bangin’! Who chef’d this up?
BLOCK McCLOUD: Fresh made the food tonight. Her cubed steak with peppers & onions is immaculate. The last time you came through I did the cooking. (We divide the cooking duties equally.) She cooks for our 2 beautiful daughters, and I cook for us.
We both throw down on the stove something crazy. You’ve had our food a few times now. You already know how we get down.
KINETIC: Dude, you know I love the Latin Soul food that comes out of this kitchen. Why do you think I keep coming back? (Laughter) Ever thought of opening up a restaurant?
BLOCK: Man…you’re not the 1st person to ask me about opening a restaurant.
We have a few offers on the table. We might even go the cart, or truck route like the ghetto habibi stands. You know what I’m talking about, right? That $5 sectioned plate with the lamb, or goat meat, curried veggies on the side, hot sauce & white sauce w/rice pilaf. Only it would be straight up arroz con gondules y bacalaitos! (rice and pigeon peas with cod fish fritters for the non-Spanish reading)
Kinetic: So you and Fresh Jones have 2 children together the both of you raise, run a record label, you own other businesses together and manage to record music together…DAMN!
Does that effect the relationship at all?
BLOCK: It’s very hard to do but yes we do it every day- it’s a learning experience for us.
Being able to shift roles in terms of the different relationships we share together is a driving force in why we are together. So no matter how difficult it gets it’s a good experience.
FRESH: It’s one of the reasons my album isn’t done yet.
(Brock laughs as Fresh continues…)
Sometimes the personal and the business relationship cross paths and things get a lil hairy around here. We end up working it out though.
BLOCK: Basically she sometimes gets pissed at me when I push her to do better. I might want her to sound pristine vocally because I know what she’s capable of. She’ll get mad be cause she thinks I hate her that day, or that I’m being spiteful. (Laughs) But it’s really me looking out and wanting what’s best for her because I love her.
You know what I’m talking about Kinetic? If I told you my opinion on a particular thing in one of your songs- you would be ok with it, right?
KINETIC: Of course, but I’m not in the same situation.
FRESH: At the end of the day our relationship dynamic helps me to be more creative all the way around. It helps to make me more passionate about my art. So it’s really a boost to everything we do together. He helps me out and vice versa.
BLOCK: We have some beautiful music together.
She’s on my upcoming album “4 Walls” out in March/April, and she’s all over “The Suicide Squad Album“, I’m on her upcoming solo album too, so you’ll be hearing a lot from her in 2010.
KINETIC: Tell me about your new business venture and label Disturbia Music Group.
BLOCK: Disturbia Music Group is something different.
See…you can be disturbed and be like “WOW! I feel like I’m enlightened!”, or you can be disturbed like “DAMN I’m scared!!!”
I just want to wake folks up and force them to feel something towards what we are pointing out about our world. I want the listeners to walk away from it feeling emotionally impacted. I’ve always tried to stray away from anything that was a status quo, or that cliche hip-hop bullshit. I’m not on that commercial shit. I’ve touched on it because I am able to, but it’s not something I pursue. I don’t intend to either for the most part.
The most commercial song I’ve done to date, and gotten some knocks for is the stuff I did with Vinnie Paz and The Clipse. I had a lot of fun making music with them. It was a great oportunity for me as a artist. As much as some folks wanna knock it or shoot blanks at me- I could care less. I think The Clipse are dope, and I respect them as artist.
Shout’s to Vinnie Paz for making that happen. Big up to my whole Army of the Pharaohs Crew!
KINETIC: Tell me more about The Army of the Pharaohs Crew.
BLOCK: It’s a really sick crew of MC’s, and I’m the only NY Rep in the group.
The group consists of myself, Apathy, Celph Titled, Crypt the Warchild (Outerspace), Demoz, Des Devious, Doap Nixon, Esoteric, King Magnetic, Jus Allah (Jedi Mind Tricks), King Syze, Journalist, Planetary (Outerspace), Reef the Lost Cauze, and Vinnie Paz (Jedi Mind Tricks).
It’s been a really productive experience so far. I admire and respect their whole movement because of the even distribution of love in that crew. The respect one another, they rock together, they go on tours together and I think that’s something you don’t really see in NY anymore. You see a lot of clicks fall apart due to group tension, or member’s getting jealous of other member’s shine, and it’s all uncalled for. A.O.T.P. is a much different animal because their success come from how they support each other.
It’s not a ego-driven crew, we really support each other in our field of music. If one member is rocking a show, you might see another member play the background be the hype man for the show. You might catch one of us holding down the merchandise table for one of our brothers. We stand together as a crew, you’re not going to hear about our inner squabbles in rap gossip on the net.
We are grown up…we wanna make bread together so we can eat like a family. Those are the things that made me gravitate towards them. I accepted my role within the structure of the family and I think that’s one of the reasons they gravitated my way. I am very proud to be a part of it. It’s a wonderful thing.
We have a project coming out in February, so be on the look out for it. Vinnie Paz’s album is out now. I got a couple of features on there with The Clipse and Paul Wall. I got a feature on the Outerspace LP, joints with Reef for his LP, A joint on the Demoz LP, and King Magnetic’s new LP coming soon.
KINETIC: How does it feel to switch from being an Recording Artist to becoming a CEO?
BLOCK: I love it! I feel like I’ve always handled myself like a CEO.
I’ve contributed to many hip-hop careers behind the scenes. I founded Brooklyn Academy, & Suicide Squad. I also helped groups like Scheme Team get their first deal. I have dealt with a lot of artists, and have helped them get ahead in their careers.
I never saw a dime or got even a thank you from them. I got tired of putting my efforts into the projects of others without getting any recognition for it. I would look cats out and hope that out of the kindness of there heart they would return the favor, or when the reached a certain level of success they would look me out. but that never happened. Back then I should of came to the table with a price for my services, but I cant be mad at it because that’s the nature of the beast.
I’m not talking about anyone in particular, but I’m talking about everyone in particular.
So that’s what I’m doing now- establishing my role within peoples successes.
KINETIC: I’ve seen you work with your artists, it reminds me of one big family. Do you see it that way?
BLOCK: Definitely, I’m the old fart of the crew. The daddy of the click overseeing everyone’s project to help them see the quality in their art. I help them to understand what steps it takes to bring a song to life. Not just because I’m older than my artists, but because I genuinely care about them learning how to express their own ideas. I want to empower them with the tools they need to be as creative as possible.
So yes it’s a family affair- I think when you give love you get love back. The artists that are on the label, and all the contributors are a part of Disturbia Music Group because they want to show love back.
KINETIC: If budget was not an issue and you could hire your top five producer’s to do your album who would that be?
BLOCK: Wow! It would probably be a bunch of cats people wouldn’t expect. Lets see…iLL Mind, Marco Polo, DJ Wax Work who just did my upcoming LP- he’s really incredible (and one of the best I’ve ever heard)…
DJ Premier is dope but probably wouldn’t make my top 5.
KINETIC: WOW!!! Really?!?!
BLOCK: He’s not someone that would fit my style of music making, but I respect what he does for other artists that is more of a mutual creative fit.
KINETIC: So who else makes your list?
I know some people may find that strange but I really respect his production style. I like the cinematic quality to his sound and I think he’s a really sick artist in general. The dude sings, raps, and does a hell of a job behind the boards. I pride myself on those same exact things.
Last but not least Dr. Dre.
KINETIC: Name 5 records that made you want to make records for a living.
- The Message by Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five
- Poetry by KRS ONE/B.D.P.
- My Melody by Eric B & Rakim
- De La Soul….. Everything by them (laughs) and The Whole Native Tongue Movement
- Anything by Kool G Rap in his heyday..
- Honorable mentions would be:
- Set It Off by Big Daddy Kane
- Anything by EPMD and the whole Hit Squad
That era of hip-hop was what made me wanna get busy!
KINETIC: Who’s your favorite solo artist in the game right now?
(Look at Fresh Jones looking at you like “You BETTER say me!!”)
BLOCK: Well Fresh Jones IS my favorite artist for so many different reason’s
For real though if I had to choose an artist that I epitomized as far as doing things in his career that I would wanna do it would be Eminem… If I chose based on lyrics it would be a tie between Eminem and Big Pun.
KINETIC: Em, and Pun have the crazy word compounds and tongue twisting rapid fire flows. I respect that.
BLOCK: Yeah that style is my origin. Always been rooted in dope lyrics…Damn K! You woofed that food down man!! You were not playing at all huh?
KINETIC: Dude, this food is straight retarded… If I didn’t have to ask you more questions I would of stuck my whole face in the bowl like your pitbull Sandy.
The dog tried pleading like “Please!!! Please!!! Just one bite” but I told her “IT’S MINE!”.
KINETIC: So what’s the current status of Brooklyn Academy?
BLOCK: We are good right now. I don’t think Brooklyn Academy will ever die. I got nothing but love for Pumpkinhead and Met. At the moment we are a pursuing our respected careers as solo artists. It’s not out of lack of love for each other. I think individually we saw the opportunity and the benefit from that choice to go after what we wanted for our own careers as solo artists.
We are all grown men in this, so it’s only natural for us to branch off into our own situations. It’s nothing personal. I love my crew, and the type of music we make together no one can duplicate or reproduce. I started that crew, so I have nothing but respect for it, and it’s members.
KINETIC: With today’s record sales being at a all time low, and MP3′s being the new medium in music sales, do you think it’s a good time to start a label?
BLOCK: It’s probably the worst time to start a label, but it’s a great time for Disturbia Music Group.
People are sick and tired of hearing the same five rappers records all day on the radio. These Rappers and their payola make it so you hear 4 of their records back to back. It’s fucking sickening. Everyone else get nixed out of the equation that way. But it’s cool because everyone is starting to get sick of it. People are starting to get sick of hearing Jay-Z all the time.
Nothing against Jay-Z, I think Jay-Z is great. Love him.. he’s from Brooklyn.. he’s awesome, but he’s old as shit and needs to fucking retire and let the new generation of this shit shine. He made his bread, and I feel he should move on, and do what he’s suppose to be doing at his age. Leave rap the fuck alone already so other records could be broken.
What ever happen to DJ’s and radio breaking new records? Thank God for the internet because without that it would be hard for any of us to get heard. It’s low cost so we don’t have to compete with major label budgets.
The internet is worldwide so we can really touch our fans. It would be great if the major companies were looking to sign new fresh talent like they did not so far back.
I think it’s only a matter of time before the majors lose touch and fall apart. It’s getting to a point where folks are searching for the music they like on the net like record diggers do. I think that’s great because that leaves us wide open to sneak away with some fans sick of the radio..If we were not in a recession you would see indie music sale shoot up drastically in MP3 sales. So a major label’s time is limited.
KINETIC: Anything you want to tell the fans?
BLOCK: Yeah dig for the music you love whether it be in record stores, or online.
Don’t let the radio determine what you buy. Find the music you love and support it. That’s the key to keeping music real. Don’t let your friends in school, or cats in your hood tell you what music you should like. You are the difference in changing the quality of what you hear in the mainstream. it’s your dollars that make change.
I wanna thank all my fans out there for the support.
I hope they enjoy the music that will be coming out of Disturbia Music Group. God bless them!