Would you say that by the time Disposable Arts was made, you were really taking cues from the production?
Definitely, with most of those—but not all. For “No Regrets”, I had some of those lyrics already jotted down on a piece of paper, but I had no beat referenced for it. I just knew that I wanted to have a song that said those things, so I wrote those things down. So when I came across the perfect beat, I went back to those rhymes and fit them to the track.
Looking at the production credits on the album, you have someone like Deacon The Villain (of CunninLynguists) doing “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. You’ve been around forever, but you’ve always kept your ear down to the underground. What inspires you to stay in touch so acutely?
Well, that’s where it all started for me. I know that’s where the talent is. I’m a big underdog guy. I’m always rooting for the underdog in sports… you name it. I’m always about that best kept secret, unsung hero person, so that’s why there are no big name producers on the record. I know I can do a great record with virtually unknown guys who have talent. It’s actually easier to work with those types of producers—if you can find them—because there’s no ego there. Guys are just happy that you’re rapping on their songs and want to get out there. Sometimes if you’re working with a bigger name, you have to deal with some extra stuff that gets in the way.
Speaking of being the underdog, when casual listeners think of New York rap in 2001, they’re thinking of The Blueprint and Stillmatic. How did it feel to come out with an album when those loomed over the city so much?
I mean, when I think about that year, for me it was September 11th more than the records that came out. September 11th changed the landscape of the planet. We had a tour scheduled for right after that incident happened in New York City. [Ed. note: Disposable Arts came out October 18th, 2001] We actually got on a plane on September 22nd, 2001. It was one of the most difficult decisions to make. Every other artist or group from the States that had planned tours overseas cancelled. We wound up being the only tour that went out during that time. People were just so happy that there was a hip-hop show. It looked like there wasn’t going to be a rap show in Europe for six months or so because of everything that had gone on.
A lot of those other records came out, but it was a much bigger picture for me. It was my first time on the road with Punch & Words and Stricklin. We did about twenty-six shows in thirty days, and it was just a super memorable, super fun tour to be on. That tour solidified me as an artist in Europe. I’ve toured continually since that time, just because of that tour and that album and people remembering us. I’ve been brought back and forth to Europe for the past twelve years, and it’s just been amazing.
That’s incredible. That must have been a hard decision, to get back out on the road. What was the tipping point that made you get on the plane?
Well, for me, it wasn’t…I was going. No matter what. The issue was Punch & Words because Words at the time [knew] his wife was pregnant with their first child. She was feeling like it was dangerous and she didn’t want him to go. I was actually on the phone trying to convince them to make this trip. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I had this conversation with them. I was at a gas station; I got gas and then went into this diner. I sat at the counter and ordered some food and basically talked to them. I had both of them on the phone, trying to convince both of them to make this trip. I think they’re happy that I convinced them to go.