Verbal Threat Interview: The Golden Era

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by Alex Shtaerman

With commercial rap music squarely dominating radio airwaves and mainstream media outlets, many new artists have resorted to wielding the sword of Hip-Hop authenticity in an effort to enhance their credibility in a market saturated with here-today, gone-tomorrow bubble gum rappers. But who’s for real and who’s just bluffing? It’s one thing to praise the golden era of rap, it’s another thing altogether to make music comparable to the likes of Gangstarr or KRS One.

Consisting of Kool Sphere and Reppond, the duo of Verbal Threat aims to not only praise our forefathers but to actually make music in their likeness, delivering the proof on their debut LP, The Golden Era. With the blazing lead single “Reality Check”, laced by none other than DJ Premier, as well as collaborations with Kool G Rap, Mathematics and Da Beatminerz, The Golden Era is an album that Hip-Hop fans who grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s can actually look forward to. Act like you know.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Your forthcoming debut LP is called The Golden Era and it seems like you’re music is wholeheartedly reaching back towards that classic sound; a lot of MCs talk about bringing that sound back, but at the end of the day, most of it seems to be just talk. What do you intend to do different to really show people you’re serious and you mean what you say?

REPPOND: Verbal Threat has a standard that we’ve always had. We look up to certain cats and we stick to a certain formula. We pride ourselves on the ‘88 to ’92 golden era, which is people like Gangstarr, Poor Righteous Teachers, KRS; we stay with that [format] while the music changes. We’re not influenced like say the rapper that’s already out in the mainstream, having to deal with all the commercial stuff. That’s sort of our advantage, still being kinda underground. We can dive deeper into the music and not have the outside pressure of the majors. We realize that right now in the game the majors have full control of the product that’s pushed out. So we feel that as much as we stay away from the industry standard and focus on what we know and what we feel is hot, we have a better chance of influencing the fans.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Do you feel like, with the industry being the way it is, the only real means for artists to put out credible music is to do it independently?

REPPOND: It’s been a phenomenon for a while but the whole independent movement [is allowing artists to get heard again]. It’s a little harder; it’s harder to get marketing and it’s harder to get promotion because they like to push the industry standard stuff. But I figure if you have good product, nowadays with downloads, with ringtones, there’s so many different avenues that artists have to get their music out and to get their point across without having to so-called “sell out” or do commercial music just to get some attention.

RIOTSOUND.COM: With Kool Sphere being from New York and you being from Los Angeles, what kind of dynamic does that make for within the group?

REPPOND: [Kool Sphere and me] met back around ’92 and we have the same interest in music, we look up to the same cats, we have the same traditions and ideals. I know it’s so far, East Coast and West Coast, and there’s so much hype on New York and California but when it all boils down to it, we have the same interest in music and have the same passion towards it. So when we do it, it really doesn’t come from a New York state of mind or a California state of mind. It comes from a real state of mind.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What has it taken for you to get to this point; how long have you been grinding and what kind of hardships have you had to endure to keep the dream of making music alive?

REPPOND: We were kids when we met and [music] was a hobby back then. We started to get professional with it later on as the years went by. We figure it’s our time now. We did the research, we kept our heart through it and we’ve dealt with a lot. We’ve basically been one of the few groups that haven’t had to deal with so much of the industry bureaucracy because we did it all independent. We’ve hurt ourselves because we’ve kept on such a local level that a lot of people have only heard of us locally because we’ve been independent. Now that we’re getting a chance to get some national exposure, people are like – where have you guys been? We’ve been here all the time it’s just we’ve avoided the majors, so that kinda locked out some of our fan base. But, on a local level, we’ve been doing it for a minute now.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What’s it like working with DJ Premier; what’s the creative process like with Primo and how would you say his style of doing things differs from other producers you’ve worked with?

REPPOND: Preem’s probably one of the realest cats that we’ve met. When we first hooked up with him, his rapport was just like us, real down to earth; he’s a real dude. When we got ready to work on the song, we kinda put all of our creative juices together. We told him that the idea for the song was “reality check” and then he told us he had did a mixtape a while back called Reality Check and he knew some samples that he could [use]. It kinda was a mutual thing. We told him the concept and he already kinda had an idea in his head. We put things together and it turned out [great]. It was kind of like a no-brainer, it was easy.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You’re flying to NYC tomorrow to shoot a video for “Reality Check”. What kind of concepts are you going to employ in the video?

REPPOND: We’re gonna steal a scene from [Spike Lee’s] Do The Right Thing. There’s a scene [in the movie] where the DJ is in the middle of Brooklyn and he’s like – we got the new one [for the block]. Our video is going to start off basically introducing Verbal Threat and “Reality Check” as like – we got that new hot one for the summer, come out here and get a reality check. So we’re going to have that kind of Do The Right Thing feel at the beginning of the video and then we’re basically going to depict the lyrics that we’re spittin’ in the song. We’re doing the video in New York so we’re going to have a lot of graffiti pieces in the background and also put people in the graffiti world [in the video]. We’re trying to keep the concept and the theme strictly geared around the golden era.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Verbal Threat has performed with KRS One, Guru, Method Man and Kool Keith, among others. What have the fans been saying to you about your music, what’s the reaction been like?

REPPOND: Everybody likes it man, everybody gives us good feedback. They always call our music different. I’d like to think that we’re alternative rap now. Before it used to be the norm to have to bring skills and lyrics and concepts to the table but living in the world now, that’s more of an alternative thing. So I call our style of music “alternative rap” and people feel that, people like it. People are like – where has this been, where can I get some of this; why don’t they play this on the radio? So we have to explain to them about the industry and how the industry is basically commercial. A lot of people don’t understand that. We feel that now we’re getting the chance where we get to appease the commercial crowd as well and still keep it real on that underground level.

RIOTSOUND.COM: If you could change one thing about Hip-Hop right now, what would that be?

REPPOND: I think I wouldn’t change anything, I’d give it balance. I’m not completely against what’s going on, I just feel it needs balance. Back in the days you had music that was considered commercial but then you also had music that was considered raw. So you gave the audience a chance to pick which one they like. I think now we live in a world where they just feed you all commercial, so there’s no choice. You have to listen to what’s being played on the radio, you have to listen to everything being watered down and you’re not getting that balance. So I would give [Hip-Hop] balance. I would keep what we have now but make sure that rawness [also] gets its proper representation.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You got the new album, The Golden Era, dropping; what else should the fans be looking out for as far as Verbal Threat goes?

REPPOND: We got the DVD coming with the CD. We’re going to try to maybe hop on a tour with Dilated Peoples late in the summer. We got so much going on, everything is happening at once. We may also be doing a whole overseas tour promoting the album since we’re getting so much good feedback, like in Japan and the UK. So we got a lot of things planned after the album drops.

RIOTSOUND.COM: As of right now; when will the album be dropping?

REPPOND: We’re shooting for the middle of September. We’re on track right now to do that so hopefully god willing everything will go good.

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