NYG’z Interview: Dj Premier Launches New Group

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by Alex Shtaerman

Longtime members of the Gang Starr Foundation, Panchi and Shabeeno, aka the NYG’z, are finally getting their time to shine as the legendary DJ Premier will make their debut LP, Welcome To G-Dom, the first release on his brand new label Year Round Records. Originally slated to be a mixtape setting the stage for their forthcoming album Pros & Cons, which will be entirely produced by Premier, Welcome To G-Dom received so much acclaim from fans and critics alike that the pair elected to release the opus as a full-fledged album instead. Featuring production from Premier and Emile as well as guest appearances from Royal Flush, Blaq Poet and others, Welcome To G-Dom showcases the type of maturity and focus rarely seen in new artists. In DJ Premier’s words, “NYG’z is bringing the definition of a duo back to the front line of Hip-Hop”.

Recently making waves with “N.H.B”, a track that addresses the Imus controversy and the subsequent media attack on Hip-Hop, the NYG’z are just getting started. Says Shabeeno: “We gonna give you that sound that the public’s been missing ‘cause ya’ll been bouncing bouncing and shaking and snapping – we’re bringing back that Hip-Hop music, that raw gutter”. Welcome To G-Dom drops October 9th. Guard your grill.

Click here to listen to “What Kinda Life”, brand new street heat from NYG’z.
Click here to listen to “N.H.B”, a reply to the fallout from the Don Imus controversy.

RIOTSOUND.COM: The two of you first met in the Bronx in the 80’s; what was the environment like around you when each of you first started rhyming; what made you to pick up the mic?

PANCHI: I started rhyming in like ’96, ’97, I was tired of going to jail and I was tired of selling drugs. I wanted to do something different and use this god given talent that I had. I was influenced so heavily by [Shabeeno] and the way he was rhyming and puttin’ it in, so I said, lemme get in [too] and do me.

SHABEENO: Well, I grew up in projects, so when I was caught up in there, there was a lot of cats in there that used to be rhyming and stuff, at the jams in the park and all that. And I was like – I wanna do that, I can do that easy. So I [came up] with some rhymes and became a rapper, word. People like Run DMC, LL Cool J, they were among the first ones to start getting radio play and all that. I was fuckin’ with them 12 inch [vinyls] like – yo, this is what I wanna do!

RIOTSOUND.COM: As far as your music goes, DJ Premier says, and I quote: “not only is it street, but they represent the true meaning of what it is to make a real album”. Nowadays so many albums seem like they are just slapped together and not even clearly thought out. In your view, what are the elements required in order to achieve the kind of consistency and quality that’s missing in a lot of albums today?

SHABEENO: First of all, we got a big input from Premier ‘cause he got over fifteen years experience in this game. He liked our sound and the way we put songs together and then he also has a vision for us; so when all three of our minds are together and we’re all on the same page, we kinda feel like we can [put together a great album]. We believe in [Premier’s ability] and we already believe in ourselves.

RIOTSOUND.COM: The NYG’z recorded a track called “N.H.B” in response to the whole Imus controversy and the fallout from that. What kind of feedback have you received as far as that song goes?

SHABEENO: Most of the feedback has been from [journalists], a lot of journalists are glad that we touched on that topic.

PANCHI: The feedback has been positive.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What about the situation specifically prompted you to voice your opinions and record that track?

SHABEENO: After Al Sharpton was [basically] trying to [put forth his initiative] to ban words. I was like – is he serious?!! Like, he’s really trying to control what [we say] in our music? Like, you can’t be serious, we’ve been doing this forever. Just ‘cause Don Imus went on his [rant] about “nappy headed hoes” or whatever and then they turn around and say – well, rappers say it all the time. And now since we can’t have [Imus] not say it and then have rappers say it, we gotta go after rap and what rappers say [and ban that] so other people won’t think it’s alright to say this, that and the third.

PANCHI: I think as far as “N.H.B” is concerned, I figure we should be able to say whatever we wanna say as far as expressing ourselves in our music. And as far as being a Black man, I was raised by a Black woman, you understand what I’m saying? So I should be exempt from even being questioned about saying “nigga”, “hoe”, “bitch”, you understand – it’s like if an Italian guy says “my dad was one of the first wops that came over here”, they’re not going to make him stop saying that. If you wanna start banning the “nigga” word then lets start banning mafia movies, they say it more than anything else and in a derogatory sense, you know what I’m saying.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Do you think Hip-Hop will ever stop being politicized? Lately, anything that comes around that’s negative they always try to tie it in with rap music one way or another, like the dog fighting thing for example; it’s kind of crazy the degree to which things are twisted around in the media. Do you think it’s ever going to stop?

SHABEENO: It’s not going to stop because it’s young Black people making money.

PANCHI: Exactly, that’s what’s bothering them. Could you imagine, you got a dude like Jay-Z, young Black kid, ex-drug dealer from Marcy Projects in Brooklyn that’s worth three or four hundred million right now! You think they wanna see one hundred Jay-Zs or a thousand Jay-Zs? They don’t wanna see that. So they gonna try to put up all types of obstacles.

SHABEENO: They had to make a Hip-Hop police!

PANCHI: Hip-Hop got they own police force [to follow them]…

SHABEENO: How do you say shit like – ok, this is your job, you have to follow around rappers all day.

PANCHI: Ja Rule just got locked up with a gun, they pulled over his Maybach. C’mon! they not pulling over Maybachs! What police is really targeting Maybaths to pull over – half-a-million dollar cars, seriously?

RIOTSOUND.COM: They probably just messed with him ‘cause they were following him around all day for no real reason.

PANCHI: Yea, you know, they knew who he was.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Now this NYG’z album that’s dropping October 9th, Welcome To G-Dom, is a street album that you’re going to be following up with Pros & Cons, which will be an album entirely produced by DJ Premier. Why the decision to drop a street album first as opposed to going all in and hitting the fans with the full package your first time out the gate?

PANCHI: Well, the real reason we got Welcome To G-Dom is because we had started working with Preem to get a sound together and to get some music under our belt and then as we were doing that he was working on getting distribution for [his new label] Year Round Records and locking things down as far as owning HeadQcourterz [studios], the whole floor. All down town right now in New York City, especially in Times Square and around 42nd street, there’s a gentrification of it now. So for him to get that studio was kinda hard. He had to put in the work to get that studio and then he did Christina Aguilera’s album. So while he was doing all that type of shit we started putting together some songs. [Premier] went on tour for a little while and we ended up doing like nineteen songs in one weekend and we were like – we’re going to do something with this.

SHABEENO: Right, originally we were just going to put it out as a mixtape but once everybody heard the quality of the songs everybody was liking what they was hearing. We was like – nah, we can’t just put this out as a mixtape, we gotta find someone to distribute this.

RIOTSOUND.COM: As far as Pros & Cons, Premier has done similar projects in the past with Group Home and Jeru The Damaja to immense critical acclaim, however the long term careers of those artists were relatively short. Do you worry about that, getting critical acclaim but not having an opportunity put out your forth or fifth album?

SHABEENO: Nah, I don’t worry about that, the thing that’s going to make this album so big is that Premier hasn’t done an [entire] album in so long. So everybody still wanna know, do Premier still got it? So hopefully the album will answer the doubters, you know. Actually I just read an article where they were saying – you know how Common is quoted as saying “Kanye West is the new DJ Premier”…

RIOTSOUND.COM: Yea, that’s crazy, I heard him refer to that in his new single “The People”, what are your thoughts on that?

SHABEENO: I like what the guy [who wrote the article] said – “people ain’t ready to put a fork in Premier yet” – and we damn sure ain’t.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Personally, I was surprised that Common said that because Kanye West’s production and sound is so different from Premier’s plus Common has worked with Premier before with great success and Premier even appears on Common’s new album…

PANCHI: I don’t think it was a diss though. I think he’s giving Kanye West some props and he’s saying that Kanye West’s work ethic and the quality of music that he’s putting out is putting him in the light of being the new Preemo. I don’t think it was disrespectful, I don’t think Common get down like that. Common used a metaphor and he uses a lot of metaphors when he rhyme, you know what I’m saying, and he was being slick with it and he was giving his man some props.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Panchi, I wanted to ask you about the skit you did with Guru on Moment Of Truth for “Betrayal” while you were incarcerated. How did that skit come about, did you really give Guru the idea of collaborating with Scarface or was that just part of the skit?

PANCHI: No, I actually gave him that idea and it was funny because he loved the idea so much he told me – hold on, I’m gonna record this, let’s do it all over again. We did that shit like four times over the phone!

SHABEENO: And from that is how they went and got Scarface. Scarface heard the skit before he even did the song.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What do you think fans will be most surprised by when they pick up Welcome To G-Dom on October 9th?

PANCHI: I think they’ll be surprised by the range of the music; we got a wide range on here. And also the different collabos we got and the different producers we got. Working with Premier and other producers [knowing that], they were kinda intimidated, I would believe, and gave us their best work. And what [the album] will also show is one main thing: that as a new group we know how to pick good beats and great music and make good songs.

RIOTSOUND.COM: For people who grew up on that classic golden era music and are still checking for that sound and timeless formula, what would you tell them as far as what the NYG’z represent and stand for in 2007?

SHABEENO: We represent that street music, like everybody say “I’m bringing New York back” and all that – New York has always been here, so where we coming back from? You know what I mean. We gonna give you that sound that the public’s been missing ‘cause ya’ll been bouncing bouncing and shaking and snapping – we’re bringing back that Hip-Hop music, that raw gutter. And actually it’s always been there, it’s just I guess the DJs and radio stations were just going with what was catchy.

PANCHI: You know what we doing, we’re bringing back the art of no gimmicks. We ain’t the biggest drug dealers ever, we ain’t got the biggest chains and all the bullshit. We’re going to bring back some substance to this music. Listen to the album, we got songs like “Black Butterfly” on there about our Black women. We even got a solo song on there that me and [Shabeeno] aren’t even on and it’s called “Broken Dreams” and it’s two girls on the song, Amani Montana, formerly of Vacant Lot, and Versatile. You hear groups coming out and movements coming out and they don’t have no females rapping with them, let alone doing solo joints, you know what I’m saying.

RIOTSOUND.COM: With the whole theme of bringing New York back that some rappers have attempted to “address” in the last few years, are we just seeing a recurrence of what happened in the early ‘90’s when the west coast rose to prominence and everyone was also asking “what happened to New York”? Do you think its different or similar to the way that period unfolded?

PANCHI: I think it’s different now because you got New York artists that are being heard and making music, they just making music that don’t sound like it’s coming out of New York. So it’s not like New York artists aren’t getting no light. They gettin’ light, they’re just not using that light in a productive way, in my opinion. They’re conforming to the new sound.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Any last words?

PANCHI: I just wanna say look out for the NYG’z album Welcome To G-Dom, out in October and look out for Pros & Cons coming right after that, produced by DJ Premier, Year Round Records.

SHABEENO: Pros & Coming is coming out at the end of the year ‘cause we not your book bag rappers. You know how rappers is labeled, like the almost underground, the book bag type rappers, we not them.

For more news and info on the NYG’z stay tuned to www.MySpace.com/NYGz