M.O.P. Jump “In the Mix” [DJBooth Interview Exclusive]
New York, N.Y. -- Having soldiered ever onward through more than two decades of hits, misses, changing fortunes, and label switches, it's no wonder that Lil Fame and Billy Danze of M.O.P. identify with the Spartan troops who tenaciously stood their ground against the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae (as famously, if not altogether accurately dramatized in the film 300). In fact, the kinship runs so deep that the Brownsville, Brooklyn street veterans have borrowed their home city's name for their ninth album as a duo, a full-length collaboration with German production team The Snowgoons. Complete with Booth-approved single "Get Yours," the Sparta LP is scheduled to hit store shelves and online retailers on Tuesday, November 22.
In a Booth-exclusive interview, Lil Fame & Billy Danze step into the Booth to discuss how The Snowgoons have helped shape their latest album, their thoughts on the current state of East Coast hip-hop, and why, as far as they're concerned, one label is just as bad as another.
You connected with European production duo The Snowgoons for your brand new album, Sparta. How did this collaborative effort come about?
Billy Danze: That came about through the label actually. The Snowgoons have some dope production that we’ve been hearing about. We had a chance to link up with them so it was perfect. The label asked us if we wanted to a collaboration album with them and we were interested. They sent over about 100 tracks and I gotta’ be honest with you, everything was fire. The toughest part about putting this album together was picking which tracks out of those 100 to use.
Due to their global roots, should we expect a more versatile sonic landscape on this album?
Lil Fame: They’re German and Danish I believe. It’s a crew of two dudes. They do exactly what producers are supposed to do. A lot of producers want to have a signature sound which is great, but as a producer you should be able to produce all kinds of music from all different angles and that’s what The Snowgoons do.
Will we hear M.O.P. experimenting with these “different angles” on Sparta? Or will it be what M.O.P. fans have come to expect?
Lil Fame: It’s exactly what M.O.P. fans expect it to sound alike with a little more emotion and a little more dramatic. We have storytelling songs on there. It’s not just a loop and tones. It really changes; there are all types of things going on with this album.
How would you compare the sound Sparta to your last release, The Foundation?
Billy Danze: We pretty much put The Foundation together while out on the road. With Sparta, we put this album together at home. We were working on this album and not focusing on anything else. Again like Lil’ Fame was saying, production wise, in my opinion we haven’t had production this good in some years now. And the production actually made us do records from different angles if that makes sense. That’s not taking anything away from Fizzy Womack! [laughs].
So the sound is different, but fans are only used to your hardcore lyricism. On Sparta may we hear more personal stories?
Lil Fame: It’s the same old street shit that we’re talking about but it fits the music. The music takes it to another level. It’s not just a two bar loop over and over again. The music really changes.
No doubt. Tell us about the title Sparta. Was that your idea or The Snowgoons'?
Billy Danze: We pulled that one together. It’s just about where we come from and living the life that we have to live not just as artists, but as people in everyday life. We’ve had to fight our entire lives to get into positions where we’re allowed to win and even eat. We feel like we’re still in a fighting position. We basically are Spartans because that’s what we do and what people know us for. We go that extra mile to get into the positions we need to be in.
This is your ninth album as a duo. With hip-hop’s very disposable nature, talk about your longevity. Nine albums, that’s a blessing…
Lil Fame: As far as the core of hip-hop goes, what we represent and what the fans really love, it’s still good quality music and putting some effort into it; unlike a lot of the stuff we hear today that has the same tempo to it. We make sure that we don’t make records that sound like everybody else.
You’ve worked with a lot of different labels (EOne, G-Unit, Roc-a-Fella, etc.) throughout your career, as Babygrande is slated to release Sparta. How would you compare your previous situations to your current set up with Babygrande now?
Billy Danze: We don’t like to compare labels because with the exception of the first two or three labels we’ve been on, it’s never been about a label. It’s only about M.O.P. and the project. It doesn’t make a difference to us as long as they can get the product to where it needs to be. The music falls back on us; the fans are gonna’ be analyzing M.O.P. and The Snowgoons on this Sparta LP – they won’t be paying attention to the label. There’s no comparison. They all look out for themselves and don’t have the artists’ best interest at heart. That’s with all disrespect intended and no disrespect held back. As far as music we’ve ever put out, it’s only about us and the producers.
As veterans in the industry, what is your take on the state of East Coast hip-hop right now?
Lil Fame: It’s a disaster! East coast hip-hop sucks cow’s ass [laughs]. I’m only joking. There are a lot of cats out here making good music and at the same time, there are a lot of cats trying to do what’s popular. It’s a cycle that goes around. Everybody gets their shot but right now, the east coast needs to pull together and find their identity again.
Thank you both. Any last words?
Billy Danze: November 22! Make sure y’all pick up our new album with The Snowgoons, Sparta on that date. In three weeks, we’re back in the studio working on our next M.O.P. album. Termanology also has a new album coming out that he did with Lil’ Fame, called Fizzyology. If you don’t pick up that Sparta album, well, you lost.