This year’s VH1 Hip-Hop Honors show has taken on a whole life of its own.
Building from the momentum of previous years, the show & the channel are proving to be accurate to the essence of Hip-Hop music & culture. Digging deeper into the history each year, they’ve managed to recognize artists whose catalogs were not sacrificed for the sake of fame or critical acclaim. By choosing respectable artists, VH1 has garnered the attention & praise of fans across the map.
And some of those fans included a new crop of MCs, DJs and producers.
Which brings us to the topic at hand: Mick Boogie’s The Honor Roll. A musical mashup, the endeavor is a well engineered project featuring music from the catalogs of this year’s honorees, covered by a new generation of emcees & producers.
For more of the back story on how the project came together, The Crew’s Gotty™ got up with Mick Boogie, impresario Dan Solomito & Notherground’s 6th Sense for an impromptu Q&A about what all went into the making of The Honor Roll.
TSS: Whose idea was the tape originally?
Mick: Mine. Two weeks ago, I was sitting on the beach in Miami with my wife and we were talking about how dope the Honors are every year. And the idea just hit me. So for the rest of our vacation she sat at the beach reading and sunning while I sat under an umbrella with my Blackberry and iPhone and got the thing in motion. Then when we got back, I commissioned a few of my friends to really help get things popping, since we had less than two weeks to knock it out. Since it was so last minute, VH1 was not involved initially but they are very impressed and we are in negotiations to make it official next year, which is really exciting.
TSS: Who all helped out with this project?
Mick: In addition to myself, my homie Dan Solomito, who also manages Kidz In The Hall, stepped in and brought some cool new artists to the table that definitely deserve to be on this project. The kid that runs my blog – PressPlayFashionForward – his name is Christopher Truth. He definitely stepped up and helped coordinate stuff because I was out of town a lot. Lastly, one of my favorite new producers in the game, 6th Sense, produced the majority of the project and coordinated the engineering and mastering on mostly everyone else’s songs.
TSS: Dan, how did you connect with Mick Boogie to assist with this project?
Dan: It was great finally working together. He did a project with one of my artists, Kidz In The Hall, called Detention, which was an idea I had where we brought a mixtape DJ over to the RIAA-approved side of the business. I had him host a mixtape formatted album which was all original content and therefore legal to be sold via an exclusive we did with iTunes. But our interaction that project was minimal. It was not until The Honor Roll where we truly had a chance to work together; brainstorm, come up with some great ideas, and bring this project to fruition…and all in just under two weeks.
TSS: Can we expect more collabos in the future from two nerdy white guys?
Dan: We already have some big ideas on a few new projects. Mick is doing a great Obama-related mixtape and shirt coming next week. It’s always nice to come across someone in the music industry who has the ability to balance the rigors of the business side while still being passionate about what they do. Mick Boogie is that guy.
TSS: 6th, how hard was it to coordinate all of these beats at the same time?
6th: This was one of the first experiences I had with sending ProTools sessions back and forth. I’m used to doing everything in one studio, but this proved to be a little bit of a challenge. It wasn’t like I just sent the beats out and that was it. All them cats sent their vocals back and I would mix the song. Lotta credit to everyone, all the MC’s, managers, and engineers. Mick, Dan, everyone that helped out. I mean we did the damn thing in a week and a half. Beat creation, lyric writing, recording and mixing. I tip my hat to everyone on that.
TSS: And you guys got MC Serch to narrate the project. How did that come about?
Mick: Serch and I have run into each other for years, via the radio industry, but never really talked. He lives in Detroit now… and my wife was cool with him and his wife. So one day, we saw each other and talked about working together. When I thought about this project… I realized he would be the perfect person to host it… with his status as an old school legend and his current VH1 presence. And here it is. Great guy, all around. No gas face to Serch!
TSS: How receptive were the various emcees to the project? How hands on were they in regards to picking which songs should be included?
Mick: Everyone was pretty cool. Now, we aimed our visions pretty high for this project. Many were very, very excited. Some of these guys, like Naledge, Evidence, Freeway, they really stepped up and knocked stuff out asap. Much love to them. There were a couple dudes who flaked, either by ignoring it or promising a song and then blacking out (laughs). And some of these guys were super busy and always on the road…like The Cool Kids…so it’s all good. Next year, we will have a lot more preparation time. But there were a few dudes who had the time…and just didn’t do the song. No names, though. Regarding the actual songs they did, that was pretty much decided by the A&R team.
TSS: 6th, did you cater the beats you did to the rappers who were re-doing them?
6th: Sometimes. Sometimes not. We felt Mistah FAB would be dope on “Short But Funky” and I recreated that in an updated form for him. Some of the originals are so classic in my eyes that I felt a certain unease in remaking some of them. For a few of them I really didn’t want to deviate too much from the original’s composition. Just sort of give the soundbed for the MC’s to do their thing on. I felt that by me making the track in the same fashion the legends made the track, it’d be my form of paying tribute… like on “Dirt All By My Lonely.” Don’t get me wrong though, I didn’t paint by numbers all the time. Check out “Hey Young World.” I had a lot of fun doing some of these tracks.
TSS: Those songs definitely stand out, production wise.
6th: For a few of them I played some synth lines on top, “Dirt All By My Lonely” and “Short But Funky” come to mind.. It’s somewhat of a trademark of my production, that if you hear a single synth line on top with a lot of counterpoint and harmony in the melody, you know that it’s a 6th track. I tried to have some fun with it. On “Hey Young World”, I really tried to take that far. I used a Mellotron and a vocoder on that. And on “The Bizness” I used a thumb piano from Africa, I want to say Kenya. I was pluckin away in the booth, having some fun with it, but it worked out well.
Mick: This dude didn’t leave his basement for ten days. His neighbors must want to kill him. All those samples and keyboards and of course, the thumb piano. But seriously, we wanted to make sure this project was sample-intensive. That’s the era these guys came from, the era we were raised in.
TSS: It must be fun getting back to sample-based production.
6th: I always had a huge respect for the producers, but through the process of cooking up the dozen or so beats I made I gained a whole newfound respect for these guys. Guys like Prince Paul, Muggs, Kay Gee…those cats are GENIUSES. Prince Paul might have seven or eight different samples in one track! I ain’t even realize there were that many samples in “Hip Hop Hooray” but the way Kay Gee had JB playin off of Sylvia ever so low in the background flipped my wig when I first came upon it on my MP.
TSS: Looking at the tracklisting, I see each one of the honorees has an interlude. How did that come about? Did you have to go through various channels & people or you just called Treach & said “Hey, speak on being a Hip-Hop honoree”?
Mick: Some of the artists I was cool with. Some of them I had to go through others to get in touch with them. For example, Kweli’s management put me in touch with De La and Pos definitely came through. He called me a few times on his European tour until I had what I needed. I have to say though Too Short was by far the coolest. I sent that guy a text message out of the blue and 45 seconds later he called me back with the best interlude of them all. That’s why he is still around twenty years later. Young artists could definitely take a lesson from his work ethic, efficiency & professionalism.
TSS: Did either of you make it to the actual taping of the show?
Mick: Sadly, I was out of town. Next year!
TSS: Coming from the era when the honorees were at their height, how important was it for you to pick just the right songs to convey to a kid listening now “Yo, this song right here is why De La is legendary”?
Mick: Very important. You gotta pick the hits and the classics so people recognize and want to listen. But you also choose the rarities; using the fans’ choices to show the diversity. Like Cypress, of course we used “Kill a Man” but we also did “Hits From The Bong”. With Too Short, getting Mistah FAB on “Short But Funky” was amazing. But for the real underground heads, we did “Buy You Some.” Same with De La. We did “The Bizness” with De La family member Butta Verses. We consider those to be little Easter eggs for the real fans.
TSS: Any one of these artists have more of a personal impact on you?
Mick: De la, definitely. The first public event I ever deejayed was a De La Soul concert in Cleveland in 1997. The best and most consistent group in Hip-Hop history. You can argue Tribe and Outkast had missteps. De La never had an album that fans frown at.
6th: If I had to single one out, it’s gotta be De La. They made it possible for a lot of artists to be themselves. They’re geniuses hand down. Look at The Grind Date man! Name an act of ANY genre that could drop an album as dope as that, that far into their careers. As an MC, I’ve borrowed so many lines from them. If you look deep, I have a song called “De La Soul.” That should say it all right there.
TSS: VH1, moreso than most TV channels, has taken to Hip-Hop in a unique way, specifically by doing things like Hip-Hop Honors. What’s your reaction to that?
Mick: It’s great. It’s Hip-Hop for grown folks. I’m 30. I don’t need strippers, dances and typos. I want what I like presented to me in the same high quality format we get on NBC and CNN. That’s what VH1 does.
Hip-Honors 2008 airs October 6th, at 10PM EST on VH1. The Honor Roll releases simultaneously via Mick Boogie’s blog, pressplayfashionforward.com as well as Nahright.com. Check the tracklisting, make plans to visit one of those sites & clear some hard drive space.