There’s no denying the infectious Hip Hop classic “Ante Up”! If you haven’t heard it prior to going out, the gym or in my case from my college friend Tavia screaming it for dear life, then you haven’t lived! Billy Danze of M.O.P. was exactly what we needed in Hip Hop and he along with Lil Fame continue to tour from that record to prove that it’s just better to make timeless records. Make sure to read my interview I did for HitHipHop.com as we discuss touring with Linkin Park, having cyphers with Jay-Z and being influential to Waka Flocka.
Billy Danze…Mr. Ante Up
HHH: How did you link up with Lil Fame and when did you know you guys had the potential to bring something unique to Hip Hop?
Billy Danze: Well, this is a really funny story too. We just talked about this a couple weeks ago and I asked Fame does he remember how we met. And we have no clue, we don’t remember. You know how you could be like “Yo, I met this dude in the club” or you know “I met this dude one day at the store, we became friends.” We been friends for so long that we don’t remember how we became friends. You know what I mean. So this is way before we got into the business, this is way back in the skelly days and you know free lunch. You know those sort of things. So, we’re not even sure how we met, but we you know, we grew up together. So, we been friends for, ah s**t, way over twenty years. You know, so we’re more like brothers than an actual rap group. We’re not a, you know nobody found me and then found him and put us together. We actually, we didn’t even rap when we met. We go back that far, as far as knowing that we had something to offer to the Hip Hop community, Fame was actually a dj. Fame would actually be djing and I would just do little freestyles, but it was never nothing that we was serious about ‘cause we were just street kids. You know and it just evolved from there. My boy Lazy Laze who actually lived in the same neighborhood, we all from the same neighborhood, who is my manager/dj/homebody (laughs). You know he, one day, somebody brought Fame to him and they started putting music together. They did a compilation album called “The Hill as Real” in I believe in 91’, yeah bout 91’, 92’ it came out. Then Fame just asked me to do a record with him, which was going to be his solo project and which was “How about some Hardcore,” which was a record we put together. And without the record even being completed, the label just gave us a deal because they liked the way we sound together. But we was always M.O.P. way before the music, just from you know being boys out on the street.
HHH: Wow. That’s an interesting story. Well, with eight albums, numerous features and a classic single for any sport. What drove a group from Brownsville, NY to that much success?
BD: Well, at the time when we came out, this is another weird story because we’re more like the rebel kind of guys. We wanna do what you say we can’t do. I believe it was Mayor Dinkins or Mayor Koch in New York at the time that was saying that you know, “The music is horrible” trying to ban hardcore music. They were saying, it was actually live on the news, where they had this steam roller. They had all these cassette tapes out there and they would rollover the tapes. It was on the news for about three weeks, so that’s why our first record was like “How About Some Hardcore.” We don’t give a damn about what they say and it’s easier for us to do this kind of music because we can relate to our kind of people. Them street kids, them ghetto kids which you know anywhere you go in the world you got them kids. So we just wanted to be able to supply our kind of people with music because even though dudes were trying to do it, they wasn’t doing it hard enough for us. You know what I mean, so we decided to go in here and just curse really hard on every record. (Laughs) And never water it down for anybody. We wanted to basically educate kids that wasn’t from Brownsville or how it is from Brownsville. And the world, not just the city or the country but the world took a liking to it. Here we are today, you know just coming home again from another tour like two weeks ago and in another two weeks we’ll start another tour. We’ve been blessed because you know people that came in the game in our era they’re actually not there anymore, you know what I mean? Like the only ones that’s actually left is M.O.P, Jay Z and Snoop. And everybody else that came in our time in that era, they’re no longer around for one reason or another.
HHH: Well, since you brought up being a rebel and you guys being viewed as rebels. In the past you were placed at different labels, you’ve gained a sense of what M.O.P should be about. Do you have any suggestions for artists who feel they are losing their identity because the labels want them to change?
BD: Well, see here’s the thing about that. Today’s artists are in it for something totally different, than what we were in it for it. We were in it because we were fascinated with the skill level of Rakim, G Rap, Kane and you know KRS-One. So we just wanted to be, we wanted people to look at us like we looked at them. Today’s artists it’s about I want make some money, I want to look good, I want have women, I want to have jewelry; I want to have cars, whatever. So, if that’s what you want, then you may have to make some kind of compromises because if you do street music 100%, you know it’s hard for you to get radio play now, it’s hard to get video play. So, my suggestion to them is, just know at least what you want to do. If you want to just be known as one of the greatest MC’s, then work towards that. If you want to be known as one of the richest MC’s, then work towards that. You know what I mean? With the way the labels are going now, if you don’t sound like everybody else, they won’t even sign you. Which is a horrible situation because Hip Hop is suppose to be about creativity. You know I remember, I believe, I can’t remember if it was Busta that told me this story or Jay Z or Biggie, but one of them. And it was all three of them was in the equation ‘cause they all use to go to school together. And they would, one of them would come to school that day and have an incredible song and the other two will go, “Man I gotta go home and try to out do this” or do something as good as this. You know what I’m saying, but not the same exact record. Now a days everybody do the same record, so if you want to hear six different guys all you got to do is buy one dude’s record. Which is horrible for Hip Hop in my opinion, but if that’s what they want to do, if that’s what’s moving the machines now, then sometimes you gotta compromise and change your game. Depending on what it is that you stand for, what it is you want to do. You know what I mean.
HHH: Speaking on what’s being played or constantly being played on the radio, is there anyone new in the game you are listening to?
BD: No one. (Laughs) And I say that very disrespectfully. I don’t hear anyone that makes me want to do a record. So, I want to stay away from people or artists or records that’s not inspiring to me. So, I don’t even listen to the radio. I got kids, so I walk through the house and I hear what they’re playing. Every now and again I may stop “That’s crazy, I love it!” You know what I’m saying, but nobody’s really doing it for me right now. You know, I hope that people don’t, I’m not a hater for one. My career has been really good to me and I traveled the world. I’ve been everywhere in the world except for China and Africa. So, I’ve been everywhere coming from Brownsville, you know I wasn’t suppose to last past twenty. So, just by listening right off the head, nobody’s really doing it. I’m sure there are some good rappers out there, but those aren’t the ones they’re putting in the front. Those aren’t the ones they’re playing on the radio. Those aren’t the ones they’re getting video spins. I don’t really see any kind of good music out there. So, I try to stay away from it, so I don’t get sucked into trying to sound like someone else or following their lead.
HHH: There’s much talk about who should be nominated for VH1’s Hip Hop Honors. Who would you like to perform your classic records?
BD: I’m a 100 percent Hip Hop, but then I’m a grown man with a family that I need to support. So I’m a 100 percent about business, you know what I mean. If it’s a good look to have one of the artists that’s in front of the pack right now, do some of the performances for M.O.P., then I would love it. It’s whatever works. I was just checking my facebook and I hear there’s a lot of talk about the kid Wacka Flocka. And then I also heard he’s a M.O.P. fan and he has a similar M.O.P. style. So maybe he’ll be a good dude, one of the artists that’ll be good to do a M.O.P. record. I’m not really sure so I want to focus on; I want to pay attention to who’s out there doing whatever they’re doing, but I’m actually in the game and I’m relevant. So, I pay more attention to me as opposed to paying attention to other artists. You know what I mean. So you can choose who should do the performances. (Laughs)
HHH: (Laughs) I would go with Joell Ortiz and the whole Slaughterhouse in general. That’s just my opinion.
BD: Oh definitely, Joel Ortiz though. I love Joell Ortiz. When I mentioned a few minutes ago about, I don’t see anybody that’s really doing it for me, but that whole Slaughterhouse camp is incredible. So, that goes without question, but nobody else doing it for me. So, yeah maybe we can get the whole Slaughterhouse to do M.O.P. records. We don’t need nobody else (Laughs). You know what I mean? Nobody else means anything right now to me, you know. But its business, so when the kids pay attention they want to see Wayne, they want to see Wacka Flocka, they want to see whoever is out there. So, it’s something that could be in the air. It doesn’t make a difference if they decide to honor M.O.P. It’ll just, we’ll just be grateful for that. At least somebody recognized at some point, maybe. So what if it was twenty years later, who cares? (Laughs) You know, I almost got upset, but I’m gonna take it easy. Them bastards ain’t recognize me in all this time. (Laughs) Nah.
HHH: “Ante Up” and “Cold as Ice” reached in the top 10 UK singles chart. What do think is the reason for your success over there?
BD: Just the fact that, those guys have an appreciation for an artist that really goes in and you know, does his best. As opposed to somebody that’s just winging it, you know what I mean. Like they really have a passion for good music over there. I don’t know if you ever been there, but the passion that they have for good music is ridiculous. It’s really unheard of it’s almost like taking it back to when maybe Herc and them started it or maybe the era when LL, Run-DMC and you know those guys were in place, in position. Because remember at that time everybody, everywhere around the world had a passion for Hip Hop music and that passion has fizzled out in some parts of the world. But not in Europe, not in China, in Japan and you know these other places across the world. So, I think they just have a lot of respect for people that actually give it there all, when it comes to the music. And I love it, you know every time I go over there, you get this whole Michael Jackson feeling and people that can’t speak English that sing to your record. And it seems like they feel exactly how you felt when you wrote the record. You know what I mean? They got a lot of passion over there. I doubt that Hip Hop will ever die over there. I swear to God, long as we keep providing it, it’ll never die. It’ll never die, so you don’t have. Like when you go over there, when you listen to the radio there, maybe they do have a playlist, but it’s nothing like the playlist here in America. When you listen to the radio here, you hear six artists all day long and it be the same six songs, which is horrible. The way I feel about the music today, that the kids in America are creating, it’s like if you go to a party and you can do the same dance for six hours straight, that means something wrong. That mean the rhythm is all the same, the feeling is all the same, the tempo is all the same. Like what happened to the creativity in Hip Hop, you know what I mean. So, they have that in Europe, in Europe I don’t know if you’ve ever been, but you’ll love it over there. Especially if you love Hip Hop.
So, we would get out on the stage and these kids was going ape s**t every time we did it. So, it was a great experience, I think we setting up to possibly do another record, another live record with a band and then we’ll tour out with them probably by the end of this year.
HHH: Yes, I do love Hip Hop. I’ll be sure to travel across the seas very soon. After all these years of continuing to perform the same song, are you still “Ante’d Up”?
BD: Oh for sure, 200% too! And I perform it like I performed it the first time I ever performed it . (Laughs) And people love it. So, you know it’s that passion over there, like they don’t let nothing die. They won’t let anything die if their opinion is incredible or it’s good. Like they make legends over there for real. There’s no legends really been made in America. The last legends that were really in just America was Biggie and Tupac. And it’s sad to say but it was because of their death, they both was murdered. That’s why they became legends in America. If I’m not mistaken neither one of them ever been to Europe. They never went across seas, but still across seas, you throw on a Biggie record or a Tupac record they gonna tear the club down.
HHH: You discussed that you came back from a tour. You had the opportunity to tour with a rock/rap group Linkin Park. Tell me a little bit about that experience.
BD: Well, you know what? It was incredible because we actually never had that on a stage before; you know actually a guitar player, drummer, two guitar players, a drummer and a bass player. I never witnessed, I never been on a stage with a band before. So, amazing sound coming from these instruments, I’m still trying to figure out how four, five different dudes can hook up together and actually make music like that. It’s different from the producers here when they you know, get they little drum machines and do whatever they do. That was crazy, we did that, we actually toured with Korn, with a band. Korn, Snoop, M.O.P., Ghostface and what we would do is come out with regular M.O.P. records. Half way through the show we would bring a band out and call them the Mash Out Posse, like this is the Mash Out Posse. So, we would get out on the stage and these kids was going ape s**t every time we did it. So, it was a great experience, I think we setting up to possibly do another record, another live record with a band and then we’ll tour out with them probably by the end of this year.
HHH: To rap things up what can we expect from M.O.P. in 2011?
BD: Well, right now we’re working on a new M.O.P. album and we’re doing solo projects. My solo album should be completed soon it’s called “Behind Gates” and Fame’s solo album, I think it’s almost completed as well it’s called “The Fame and the Glory.” Lots of touring and we’re doing this website right now, “We Build Hits” website when I say it’s incredible, it’s really incredible. I would like for you know people, who ever paying attention and also yourself to take a look at it if you really like Hip Hop music, if you love Hip Hop music you’ll see what we’re doing with the website.
Interviewed by Shiyana Bellamy
Conducted on January 14, 2011