Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Words From The Desolate One: A Phone Conversation With Just-Ice

Just-Ice: Still Desolate After All These Years.

By Scott Tre

Never underestimate the importance of having the courage of your convictions.  Tough talk is worth zilch if one hasn’t the stones to back it up.  Rappers would do well to remember this, as Hip-Hop is now going through a phase where words and history are not valued.  MC's no longer have to worry themselves with walking the walk, so long as they talk the talk well enough.  Fans these days are as concerned with artistic integrity and honesty as they are with actually buying CD’s...that is to say, not much.  Such an environment can be extremely dismissive towards an old head with the balls to call it as he sees it. 

Just-Ice has a real sense of history and very little tolerance for bullshit.  Though his outspoken and aggressive demeanor won’t win him any popularity contests, he remains steadfast in his commitment to good old fashioned hardcore hip-hop, which is fitting since he helped to set the standard long before it became lucrative.  He doesn’t care if you like him so long as you respect the Jux.  He refuses to take his place as the quiet but observant elder statesmen.  Our recent phone conversation revealed him to be not too dissimilar from the man fans heard on Back To The Old School.  When the desolate one speaks, his word is law.  

Scott Tre: Has anyone ever tried to dispute the history you laid out on “Going Way Back”?

Just-Ice: Nope.  Nope. Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  That’s a solid no.

Scott Tre: Definitely never to your face, they never stepped to you or tried?

Just-Ice: If they don’t say it to my face I don’t consider it being said.  Like I said, if a tree falls in Brooklyn right now, does it make a noise?  I’m pretty sure it does but I ain’t hear it!

Scott Tre: Gangsta rap is mainly associated with the west coast in most peoples minds--

Just Ice: Bullshit! Bullshit!  Let me stop you right there!  Them niggas wasn’t doin it back when I was doin it!  Them niggas was not doin it!  Dr. Dre was fuckin around with The World Class Wreckin' Cru!  Eazy-E was out there selling fuckin' drugs!  Ice Cube was out there doing whatever the fuck he was doing in Oakland, it wasn’t no hip-hop! As a matter of fact, Dr. Dre was always bailing Eazy-E’s ass out of jail for selling drugs when I was doing hardcore hip-hop!  Them niggas wasn’t doin it back then!

Even Ice-T wasn’t doin it back then!  He might’ve been rhyming, but he wasn’t talking no hardcore hip-hop shit!  That shit did not start until 1986 record wise!  Now I know a shit load of mother fuckers in the Bronx that was talking some real gangsta shit on the mic back in those days, it was just never recorded on a record.  That’s why when I recorded it on a record I got love from the fuckin' real gangstas cause they was like it’s about fuckin' time somebody tell it how the fuck it really is.  But them niggas wasn’t doin it.  The west coast wasn’t doing no hardcore shit in the 80’s.  Them niggas didn’t start doing that shit until…when did N.W.A come out?  In '88, '89?  Maybe '89 or something like that?

Scott Tre: Straight Outta Compton came out in '88 I think.  Yeah.

Just-Ice: Yeah, that’s when them niggas started doing that shit and I already had two years under my belt doin' it by then on a record!

Dr. Dre In His World Class Wreckin' Cru Days

N.W.A Before "Straight Outta Compton"

Scott Tre: You're known to be a very outspoken guy, as we just saw, in terms of your opinions on hip-hop.  Has your outspoken nature ever gotten you into trouble?

Just-Ice: Of course!  Right now my fuckin' shows are still limited because promoters are scared of my ass.  They be like “He’s too gangster!  He talks too loud” and this that and the third.  I’m like what would you rather have, a little sneaky ass bitch going behind your back, doing something behind your back?  I’m gonna let you know how it is straight from the fuckin' muscle!

Just-Ice Adorned With Africa Medallions

Scott Tre: I once saw a YouTube clip, I think it was a YouTube clip but it’s been taken down now, where you had some hilarious comments about Ja Rule's hit “I Cry”…

Just-Ice: Oh that bitch ass nigga man.  That’s why I made that record “Gangstas Don’t Cry”.  When Ja Rule first came out he was running with DMX.  I know for a fact DMX got his own little personal problems but that nigga ain’t no fuckin punk.  See I know that for a fact.  That nigga's a street nigga.  So I figured if you gonna let Ja Rule hang out with you, I mean, he’s supposed to be a gangsta!  How the fuck you gonna come out with a  record called “I cry, you cry.”  Talking about “I cried, love hurts” and all this bullshit!  I don’t know what gangsta the fuck he talking about!  Gangstas don’t cry!  


Scott Tre: That’s why you made that song?

Just-Ice: “Gangsters Don’t Cry.” The name of the record is “Gangsters Don’t Cry.”  On the flip side it’s called “Just Rhyming With Kane.”  

Scott Tre: You’re a 32nd degree master mason right?

Just-Ice: Yup.  How’d you figure that out?

Scott Tre: You said it in another interview.  I think it was Hip-Hop DX, I’m not sure. 

Just-Ice: Oh okay.  Yeah, I’m a 32nd degree. 

Scott Tre: I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of the talk lately in hip-hop regarding masons and Jay-Z and everything like that...

Just-Ice: Them niggas ain’t no masons, let me stop you right there!  These motherfuckers in hip-hop don’t even know what masonry is, and the real masons in hip-hop, we ain’t telling.  Aiight!  I saw this clip on YouTube or whatever, how they trying to say Jay-Z’s a mason.  That nigga is not no fuckin' mason!  That nigga is not a mason.  They talk about Nas is a mason.  Nas is not a mason.  They talk about when they walk up on stage they show some handshake.  Them niggas don’t even know how to shake each other's hands as masons.  None of them niggas is masons!  None of them!  And Im’a tell you, the brothers who are masons?  We ain’t telling. 

Scott Tre: Okay so then it’s a lot of ignorance and misinformation going around about the masons then.         

Just-Ice: It’s a lot of ignorance because of this Bophamet bullshit in Los Angeles.  I don’t know if you know about the Bophamet.  Are you familiar with that?

Scott Tre: No I’m not.


Just-Ice: Well look into it.  Just look into it.  It’s a lot of this bullshit man.  A lot of this shit don’t stem from New York.  It come from that L.A. bullshit.  Aiight?  They trying to say that Nelly’s a mason because of the way he got his hands on the fucking album cover.  They trying to say that 2pac was a fucking mason down with the Bophamet because of the way his hands was on…I’m like these mother fuckers don’t have no idea what masonry is and since they don’t know they can say whatever the fuck they want.  Because they are in power to say it and people can actually listen and people are so ignorant that they follow that bullshit.  None of them niggas is masons!  None of them!  Trust me, and this is coming from me!  I’m a 32nd degree master mason.  None of them niggas is masons! 

Scott Tre:  Okay cool.  Finally somebody clears that up because there’s a lot of misinformation out there…

Just-Ice: You tell them Just-Ice said them niggas that think they masons to holler at me!  I’ll find out!  All I gotta do is ask them niggas one fucking question.  And I don’t mean none of that bullshit masonry like these old international…I mean a real mason is a Prince Hall mason.  That’s a real mason.  A Prince Hall mason, not no African this and no American this and all this bullshit.  Nah.  If a nigga ever tell you that they a mason, tell them to holler at Just-Ice!

Scott Tre: You're friends with Tech N9ne.

Just-Ice: That’s my dog.  That nigga's rough on the mic.  

Tech N9ne

Scott Tre: From what I understand he’s the most successful independent rapper of all time. 

Just-Ice: Yo, it’s good reason to.  You ever been to one of his shows?

Scott Tre: No.

Just-Ice: Boy, let me tell you.  If you go to one of his shows, you gonna see the ultimate meaning of energy.

Scott Tre: How did you meet him?  How did you two hook up?

Just-Ice: Well, one day I was talking to my man DJ Eclipse because he works out here at a record store called Fat Beats before they closed it down.  Eclipse is the one who DJ’s for Ill Bill.  Ill Bill was having a show one night Irving Plaza.  Are you familiar with New York?

Scott Tre: Yeah, I’m from New York.  I’m from the Bronx.
Just-Ice: Okay so you know Irving Plaza down on 14th street.  So I go down there because I was invited to see Ill Bill.  So I go see Ill Bill, whatever, whatever, and Eclipse said “Yo, this guy named Tech N9ne want to meet you.”  So I’m like okay cool, whatever.  So I go in there and I speak to Tech N9ne and he’s like “Yo, Just-Ice, I been a fan for years” and he showed me mad fucking love.  But I’d never heard his records at this point.  So after Ill Bill performed I’m like “Yo, okay I’m out of here now.”  So Eclipse was like “Nah Just, you gotta wait and see Tech N9ne perform.  So I’m like okay cool.  I was right there on the stage with the nigga, damn near.  Yo let me tell you something, this nigga…you remember that record by the Art of Noise?**  Well he made a record from that.  I forget the name of it.  It’s called “Bout Ta' Bubble.” And when I seen him do that shit I was like “What the fuck?!”  I ain’t never seen nobody perform like that.  And this nigga didn’t miss a beat, a word, a lyric or nothing.  You know?  So if you ever get a chance, download some of his music.  It’s different.  It’s not like the regular old hip-hop you hear from New York or L.A. or Atlanta.  This shit got flavor to it, and I don’t say that  much about motherfuckers because I don’t really listen to people like that.  But him I’ll listen to because his shit sound different.  Yeah.

Scott Tre: What is the biggest difference between when you started out in hip-hop and now?  What would you say is the biggest difference in the culture, the music, the business, everything?

Just-Ice: Well I can tell you from the lyrical content it’s diminished because a lot of people, they don’t go to school.  Or they didn’t go to school, so the vocabulary is very limited.  So you don’t hear records anymore like “The Message.”  You don’t hear records anymore like “My Philosophy.”  You don’t hear records anymore like with a positive message for people, not just black people but people in general.  You don’t hear that anymore because you have to actually sit down and listen to the record and sometimes you have to decipher what the person is saying.  People sometimes don’t want to take that time out to do it.  They want to come to a party.  They want to drink, they want to have fun.  The  girls want to ride the guys dicks.  The guys want to ride the girls ass.  They just want to drink and have a good time.  The stupider the record the better it is.  So that’s what I mean, the lyrical content is diminished in that way.

The money part is different because these cats out here making a shit load of money with the bullshit that they putting out and I’m still out here struggling trying to put out some real shit.  Another way this thing has changed is when I was into this business like first starting, let’s just say the parents were the runners of the record company.  Now, the grandkids are and they don’t know what the fuck it is.  Back then, it was like the people who ran the company they did there homework as far as finding out what rappers are being played.  It’s like they were doing their own invisible track sheet.  Nowadays you go to a record company, the A&R person who listens to your record don’t even know what the fuck hip-hop is.  They’ll say some shit like Biggie Smalls or 2pac was the best rapper.  That’s when you know you fucked up, You in a fucked up place.  That’s diminished like that.

The culture, I wouldn’t say the culture diminished.  I’d just say it took a wrong turn because now a lot of these hip-hop motherfuckers are associating gang with hip-hop and that’s not true.  That’s not true.  I mean, the Zulus started from the Black Spades but we wasn’t going around killing motherfuckers because of the wrong color, off of drugs or no shit like that.  When motherfuckers wanted to battle, they would battle in the party as far as break dancing.  Now they pulling out nine millimeters.  The game has changed.  The more things changed the more they stay the same.  Just put it like that. 

Scott Tre: You once talked of your battle with MC Breeze at the New Music Seminar in 1987.  As I understand there was a bit of a rivalry between New York and Philly rappers back then….

Just-Ice: Nah, the real reason was….well finish your question.

Scott Tre: What exactly was the reason for that?

Just-Ice: Lady B is from Philadelphia.  You familiar with her?   

Scott Tre: Actually, no I’m not.

Just-Ice: Well she’s a big time DJ in Philadelphia.  At that time Philadelphia didn’t have no points.  They were behind.  So Lady B made that her business, but when it came time to put her vote down she wasn’t there.  But she made sure at the end when all the other put it in, she made sure she got MC Breeze one point extra.   Everybody in there booed her for that.  I dusted the kid the fuck off.  It was not even a contest.  It was a panel of like six judges at the table.  When they would come to her spot she was either not there or wasn’t ready, so they passed her, went to the last two judges and then they came back to her and she made sure before she gave her vote in she knew what the score was and gave him an extra point.  It was 51 to 50.  That’s the point.  It was 51 to 50.

I  really had the nigga 49 to 51 but she changed that, but then that night at the Latin Quarter we straightened all that shit out.  Red Alert was on the turn tables and for some stupid reason or another this guy MC Breeze asked Red Alert to come to Latin Quarters talking about he want to check out the New York scene.  Well I don’t think he gonna do that no more because I dusted that nigga's ass off on the stage.  I left that nigga on the stage looking very pitiful. 

*Be sure to check for The Just-Ice & KRS-1 EP Volume 1 available at iTunes and other outlets.

**The record Just is referring to in that sentence is "Beat Box" by Art of Noise


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