Hip-Hop Freedom For Me Wasn't Tied To Any Record Label

Hip-Hop Freedom For Me Wasn't Tied To Any Record Label

Mic Drop is a recurring series featuring the thoughts and opinions of some of the biggest voices in classic Hip-Hop. Raw, uncut — and in their own words — these are the gems you've always wanted.

 

I'm still trying to get in control of my career!

Throughout my career, as far as recording was concerned, that was in somebody else's hands. When I recorded, if I recorded, who I recorded, who does the music – that was all out of my hands. I didn't really feel true independence until my later years in Hip-Hop, when I wasn't signed to nothing, when I had no obligations to anything and everything was just pure Hip-Hop. 

It was just for the love of Hip-Hop. It was me being innovative, coming up with different things and different vehicles for Hip-Hop. That's freedom. That's career freedom for me; being able to choose and pick what I want to do. I can create things and all of them are based on me or Hip-Hop. That didn't come about until after my initial recording career, so in my later years.

Right now, I'm more free than I've ever been as far as Hip-Hop and as far as my career is concerned.

I'm in control. I do what I want to do – and I don't do what I don't want to do. There are certain things that, of course, you've gotta jibe with it. You've gotta go with the flow and you've got to associate yourself. But I consider those partnerships now. It's not like I work for somebody. You can't pay me. I'm working to achieve a particular goal. So the way I look at it is different now and that frees me, as well. But I've achieved this late in my career – like now


If it's something that I feel I want to associate myself with and do – or even if I need a check – if it's alright and legit, then I'm with it. But as far as depending on somebody or a particular entity? I don't do that anymore.

If we work with it – we good. If we don't, then we don't. It's not a problem. Imma keep it moving! Imma find something else! I'm going to always create another opportunity. I think that's freedom. 

Growing up, as a kid, you wish for things and you dream and fantasize about what you want and how you want your life to be. I always wanted to be famous. I didn't know what particular way I would take to become famous, but I wanted to be somebody that, when I walk down the street, people recognize me and say "Yo, that's so-and-so." If that was my life's goal, then I've achieved that already. By the recognition of people, that meant that I made it. 

We're not talking commercially. We're not talking success as far as the masses and all that; but as far as respect – that's that walk-down-the-street respect. That means that you've impacted people. The impact on people beyond something that's commercial. That's why to this day, the respect that I get from my peers and from people, it's not like a "fan" thing. It's like "Yo, that nigga is a legend." That's really what I aspire to. 

When I started getting that kind of recognition and acknowledgement from, not only my fans, but from my peers, that was it for me. There was no one thing that happened and gave me that realization. But there were some milestones. 

The movie Wild Style, when we did that, it was like a big stamp of validation from people outside the culture. Prior to that, nobody dug Hip-Hop except the people who were doing Hip-Hop! Our parents didn't dig it, disco clubs didn't dig it, adults didn't dig it – nothing! We were never encouraged, it was always discouragement: "When are y'all gonna stop doing that? Y'all ain't gonna ever get nowhere doing that!" So we had to go against that kind of mentality constantly to keep doing this thing and keep it alive.

So when these people come out of nowhere and they want to make a movie about us playing in the park and deejaying and stuff like that, it was like "OK, I'm on the right path. This is valid." Because people who are outside of this culture came in and said "Yo, that shit is valuable what you're doing. We want to document that." So that's what gave me pause, like, this shit is real. We're not just playing music in the park. 


The pandemic has been real. We've lost family members and things like that. We got halted. But we're hustlers! I'm going to find a way to get some paper. I'm Grandmaster Caz, gotdammit!

I'm going to keep a dollar coming in, one way or the other. It did slow down our main sources of income, live performance and going into studios and stuff. All the studios were closed. We had to find alternatives to that, and we did: send me the beat, I got the home studio right here! Me and my man, we can lay that down for you and send it back to you. Bam! 

I got three records out overseas during the pandemic!

You grind even harder when circumstances like that come about. It's like "Oh shit, this ain't poppin' no more." You've got to find another way and a new groove. All of that is just a testament to who we are as people. We built for struggle. We come from struggle. Hip-Hop was built from nothing. We made something from nothing. 

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