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April 15, 2015Feature

We sat down with Billy Danze and Lil’ Fame from M.O.P for an exclusive Irish interview before their show in Hangar to talk about the state of modern hip hop, violence in the genre and their message

Lil' Fame & Billy Danze of Mash Out Posse

Mash Out Posse have been performing together through some of the most seminal times in hip hop. During their intense and successful career they’ve worked with artists like Jay-Z, Naughty By Nature, 50 Cent and many of Wu-Tang Clan.

But for the duo, today they are in a new era of hip hop.

“We’ve been doing this for 20 years,” says Lil’ Fame. “It went from the Flashy Era to the era when they tried to ban hardcore hip hop, then to the Party Era. Now we’re in the Fighting Era, we’re fighting against the new music.”

Billy Danze taking in the Dublin crowd

Billy Danze explains that today, hip hop is a visual thing.

“Before we got into the business it was visual too, but it was more about quality of music, structure of the music, and the creativeness of the music. Now it’s more about the visual aspects of the music. It’s not about the structure and the creativity anymore.

“We’re not mad at that though, we’re M.O.P, we’re just as strong as we were when we first came into the game. Lyrically, show wise, production, everything. Whatever changes hip hop is going through, however it evolves, it evolves around M.O.P. We’re that centre of hip hop, nobody can change that!”

Lil' Fame

Having been on a profusion of record labels, it was with Loud Records that the pair found their greatest commercial success.

On Loud they released the fabled ‘Warriorz’ LP that featured perhaps their most famous release, ‘Ante Up’.

"Whatever changes hip hop is going through, however it evolves, it evolves around M.O.P."

“It was a label that knew how to push urban music,” says Lil’ Fame about Loud Records. “As well as us they represented Mobb Deep, Wu Tang and Big Pun to name just a few. They knew how to move our music around.

‘Warriorz’ also featured the hit ‘Cold as Ice’ which featured a sample from the popular Foreigner song with the same name.

"When somebody has a problem with someone else and it resorts to violence, it’s very personal. It had nothing to do with the music."

M.O.P were arriving at their peak of popularity just after the tragic murders of Christopher ‘Biggie’ Wallace and Tupac Shakur. At that time the media brandished many hip hop artists as thugs, saying their music incited much of the violence.

For Billy there has to be a distinction made between violence and music.

“Senseless people at the time thought that hip hop music itself was what caused the violence, and particularly the deaths of Biggie and Tupac. In my opinion, when somebody has a problem with someone else and it resorts to violence, it’s very personal. It had nothing to do with the music.

“These days, kids are trying to lean towards the tough guy image, because it sells. If a fun image sells then that’s what people want to be a part of. When it comes to violence it shouldn’t be about image. You’re either a tough guy or you’re not.

“In the 90s when those two men died, it was legitimate violence. When somebody loses their life it’s no longer about the music.”

Before those distressing times in the genre, Billy and Fame were oblivious to the success they’d experience. They were playing small shows in their hometown of New York City, and Billy Danze recounts his first on-stage experience.

“I was drunk on whiskey. Irish whiskey!” He jokes. “Fame had been on stage once or twice before so he was a little more comfortable, but it was my first time. When I got up on stage I so excited I almost forgot why I was there. Excitement plus whiskey, that shit didn’t match!

“But the people made me feel so comfortable that I just fell right in to it. Right after the show we went back to our old neighbourhood and everyone was really proud of us. It was beautiful.

“Music was something that we did,” Lil’ Fame adds. “It was something that came with our every day life. I always loved music. It’s everything. It kept us out of trouble, kept us alive.”

"I always loved music. It’s everything. It kept us out of trouble, kept us alive.”

Since the release of their very first EP ‘Dope Adolescent’, Billy maintains that the ‘M.O.P Message’ hasn’t changed.

“Family first, take care of yourself and look after your well-being, and do whatever it takes to get to where you want to go. That’s our message. No one can stop that.”

In regards to their musical style, Billy is adamant that as long as you don’t follow trends, it should fall into place.

“If you sound like everybody else, then when that particular sound fades out, you’ll fade out with it. No one does hip hop the way we do it. There are only so many words in the English language, but they never say them the way we say them.

“We’re going to keep pushing, and that’s exactly why we’re as strong as we are now.”

The latest M.O.P release, ‘Street Certified’ is out now.

Photos: Eric Davidson

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