The last temptation of Schoolly D
by Gabriel Alvarez
Before chronic, he smoked cheeba. Before drive-bys, he moved in silence. And before Gangsta rap, this Philly rapper kicked Original Gangsta funk.
Somewhere between the moment of frenzied euphoria inside a crackheadís mind as he takes that hurried hit and the point of impact as a hollow-point shell penetrates the flesh of an unlucky knucklehead exists the music of Schoolly D.
At a time when the term "gansta rap" has seeped into contemporaryspeak (indeed, a night doesnít go by that the phrase doesnít roll of the tongue of your local newscaster), And Hip-Hop itself is dealing with everything from the influx of gansta pop to various radio stations banning the potently popular genre, itís only right that the original gangster himself, Schoolly D, is hooking up all the dirty, crippled, hungry friends out there with the real deal. Like a fast talking pimp with one hell of a mean streak lookiní out for his "girls", Schoolly is dealing all of the " red, white and blue"
Welcome to America, his sixth album and personal version of salvation for a country in dire need of rehab. And who better to lead this degenerated land than a degenerate? Kickiní the hardcore ill shit from day one, Philadelphiaís Schoolly D has smoked his healthy share of cheeba, woman and suckas- the only difference being he was doing this shit in í84, when he dropped his first single, ĎGangster Boogie", (thatís ten loc Ďd-out years of steady mobbiní, all you chronic users). And if respect comes from paying dues, this is one rapper whoís put work and then some.
The years 1985 and í86 saw him releasing the hit single " P.S.K" his debut album, The Adventures of Schoolly D, and the seminal Saturday Night, all on his own label. Essentially a one-man operation, Schoolly handled everything from distribution to hie own cover artwork. In 1987, Schoolly signed to Jive, hoping that with the backing of a major label he could concentrate more on his music and not to need to worry about gettiní his shit out there. He was half-right. Bouncing from Jive to Capitol, Schoolly released Smoke Some Kill, Am I Black Enough for You? and How A Black Man Feels, each effort progressively more refined and confrontational, but each album also disappointingly marketed. Now on Ruffhouse/Columbia, the man whoís never hesitated to dis the NAACP, his sister and even his own mother is back with the funk and a lesson for any and all punk-ass pretenders. While the countless legions of gangsta rappers come at you with an assortment of assault weapons and threats, Philly Park Side Killers comes at you harder- with a live band backiní him up.
Do you get the proper credit for being one of the original gangsta rappers?
Quietly I do. Within the circle. Like when itís time for the other rappers to do a reality check. (For some,) itís like one day they just wake up and stopped putting on the makeup and sequins and said they was hardcore, you know what Iím sayiní? So when I see Ďem, itís like props, whatever. But when they get interviewed, itís like they were like that from day one.
Welcome to America is perhaps your darkest record yet. Is there a reason for that? Because I wanted it that way.
(Laughs) I think that with this album I did stuff that Iíve always wanted to do. I got the right musicians together. I got to create the music that I wanted to do. I didnít have to rely on James or George in terms of sampling them. Now itís all my shit. Plus, itís better because I know everybody over here (at ruffhouse/columbia). They supported the album, and I didnít see them until after I finished, so that was cool. I didnít have nobody counting my "fucks" or "muthafuckas."
Did you use musicians to achieve that dark, heavy sound on the album?
Yeah. Everything you hear on the record that you hear musically is done by live musicians. I think that the age of disco fuckiní killed the guitar for black people, because if you go back before the age of disco, you had the Isley Brothers, Gil Scott, Santana Ė you know what Iím sayiní? You had all those groups utilizing the heavy guitar. But then all of a sudden something happened with disco, and then when guitars came back into fashion, people just thought that that was a white thing. I grew up on Funkadelic, Parliament, Buddy Miles, Average White Band, Tower of Power, Earth, Wind & Fire, War Ė you know, real bands. We had something different to listen to every day, every hour, every five fuckiní minutes. White bands and black bands played on the same stations.
Your lyrics paint grim, violent Ė but nevertheless realistic- images of life. Yet, whereas other gangsta rappers have received mainstream success, youíve stayed real to the streets. What do you think is the reason for that?
Thereís a lot of different reasons. A lot of those guys are like quick fixes for the audience. But when it comes down, theyíre always going to come back to the real. You got a lot of old-school rappers gettiní props now because they stayed around and theyíre still creating. I think thatís exactly whatís gonna happen to these muthafuckas that have been around for all these years Ė weíve been doing something for the others. It wasnít a lot, but itís been one thing here and there that we done.
What prompted you to write "I know you want to kill me"?
I knew you was gonna ask that question. (Laughs) After I listened to the album, I was like, "Damn, thereís a lot muthafuckas out there who are gonna want to kill me." So we just thought about all of the muthafuckas who we dissed on (the record), all the muthafuckas who were gonna be mad because itís all-true.
Why do you come out so hard against the NAACP?
Iíve been talkiní about them for a long time. They keep talkiní this shit about this one fuckiní life: "f we can save one muthafucka from each city." Do you know what they do with that one muthafucka from each city? Pull him over to the other side and then forget about all this shit he did. Itís like all of sudden heís baptized. Thatís the thing I got with them. Because as much money as Black people got in this country, we can do that shit right. And we ainít got to go out like that Ė "one muthafucka." If I had $ 100 million, I wouldnít be talkiní about no "one muthafucka" in each city Ė while these muthafuckas are ridiní around in fat-ass Caddies and Lincolns. When was the last time any of these muthafuckas had a real job?! Think about it. What the fuck did Coretta Scott King do for work? Jesse Jackson? Those muthafuckas donít get respect in the Ďhood. They come around, those muthafuckas are glad to shake your hand, but like, "Yeah, what the fuck is in it?" Weíre still struggliní. When you pull up in your fat-ass Lincoln, youíre outta here.
Is there a story behind the song "Stop Frontin"?
The story behind that is that society canít front on their selves. These kids out here, they feel like they got to stick up just to eat, you understand what IĎm sayiní? But on the other hand, you canít make a career out of that. Youíre not going to do that and be 50. Letís just face it. But on the other hand, society feels like they canít do nothing to help these kids, when they can. So both sides just gotta stop frontiní on each other. This country is not goiní to last long at the rate that weíre goiní.
How does it feel to write lyrics that anger, insult and repulse some people?
Well, see I would have to really know in what way did they get angry. Itís a bunch of women gettiní angry because I said "Bitch"? Because I guess that they would have to know the artist. Some artists out there just do it because they are "trying to get paid," and thatís what the record company really wants them to do, and their manager is pointiní them that way. Well, my stuff Ė I always thought that I was being a little deeper than some other so-called gangsta rappers. Iím just giving people exactly how I feel. So if they want to get upset, it bothers me, but then again it doesnít. They should get upset, because if you donít get upset, youíre never gonna change shit, you understand what Iím sayiní? If you actually want people to stop makiní records like this everybodyís gonna have to make an effort to change it.
Does it make you feel good when people have strong reactions to your music?
Yeah, I like it. I mean, when I finish a song and listen to it, itís like youíre either gonna love it or youíre gonna hate this shit. I donít make in between songs. When I say "fuck you," I really mean that shit. Iím sayiní "fuck you. "Itís not in-between, itís not fuck you sometimes." No, itís "fuck you." Thatís how I want people to take my music: youíre either gonna love it or youíre gonna hate it. But even when you hate it, itís so close to love that youíre gonna want to hear it over and over again, just so you can hate me more. (Laughs)
What do critics say about your music that most annoys you?
Well, hip-hop has been taken over. When I was doing it - I guess I can say "back in the day" - it was more about originality. Right now I see a lot of people saying or thinking like, if it doesnít fit in this hole, then it canít be hip-hop. Hip-hop started out as an expression. Everybody had the change to express themselves and their musical background. It annoys me that those who think theyíre into hip-hop. They donít get hip-hop. They canít say, "I donít get it, but itís good." Since they donít get it, it ainít good. Then when it blows up, then all of a sudden they on the dick. Thatís the shit that really annoys me about hip-hop right now.
Do you think that your music is uncompromising?
Yeah, I can say that. I can say that almost everything that Iíve done is uncompromising. The thing is that people will buy what you tell them to buy. The last couple of record companies that I was with didnít tellíem to buy it. So it was like, "Why should we buy it? Nobody told us to buy it." Thatís how people buy shit these days. Even radio stations these days donít play what they like. Now you got to play what some radio stations director from Boston or way in Miami likes, and all the power stations are playiní the same shit. You canít buy what you like anymore unless youíre that "alternative" person, where you just donít listen to the radio, donít watch MTV until 120 minutes comes on. But lucky for me, just over the past two years, alternative grew from 60,000 people to 2 million, you know what Iím sayiní? And I appeal to the alternative audience.
Do you think Am I black enough for you? Was too hardcore of an album?
Yeah, you can do that, you know? Sometimes I sit back and I think about it. I do shit thatís so far beyond what people actually want to hear right then, I see shit just go totally over the head. I got a lot of people that talk about that album now because it came out in the soundtrack from King of New York. Sometimes you can come out and actually be too hardcore for the hardcore, you know what Iím sayiní? Sometimes being too blunt is not being entertaining.
What would you say is positive about Welcome to America?
The positive thing about this album, I donít know what songs, but maybe a song or two on there might (show) a little hope for us to change shit. Other than, itís pretty bleak if we keep goiní on this route. Iím telling people that itís not society imitating the artist, itís the artist imitating society. People still think that itís up to us! Itís up to you to stop this shit! "If you stopped singing about it, muthafuckas would stop doing it." Yeah, right. Okay.
It seems the average person who listens to Welcome to America just wonít get it.
The albumís really a feeling. Itís like, "Welcome to yourself." You are now here. We are here. This country was born and raised on violence, and we are now adults-and weíre violent. Thatís it, weíve reached it. Now, when you become an adult - you as a person - thatís when you start lookiní at your responsibilities. Now this country is in adult stage and it is now time for them to look in the mirror and say, "Okay, this is what we got to do." (Pause) And Iím the man.
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