Sunday, March 8, 2015

Evolution of a Man: An Interview with Imperator (Part 2)

Old Dog New Tricks

You've rhymed about battling Eminem on a couple different songs. Can you talk about that?

    That was 1997 Rap Olympics. That started off with me at the Project Blowed and it wasn't even a Project Blowed night. We was just there at the Project Blowed and all these rappers were comin' in there. I dunno if they were just comin' there to see the Project Blowed or whatever or to see, like, "Oh, these the dudes we battling tonight." So I was there. Nobody else was really there, maybe one other person. And we ended up rappin' and I did pretty good. I was freestyling and everybody was like "damn, Imp! You served him and you ain't even in the contest." I wasn't even really in that rap contest initially, but I was like, "Okay, I'm goin' for the thing." So I went to the place - I think it was called The Proud Bird. And I just went there for the festivities. I was there to represent and see the homeboys do they thing. But while they was battling, they start callin' some rapper. And they're like, "Hey, you better come up here! Going once, going twice..." and I'm like, "Oh, here I am! Here I am!" So I wasn't even supposed to be in that battle! And I remember I battled a girl and maybe two or three guys, so it was kind of extensive. So I beat all of them and then I battled Eminem. And when I battled Eminem I remember he came off sayin' - I mean, from me bein' old school, I know a lot about rap, so if you're imitating somebody, I can kinda tell what you're goin' for. So he came in and he was doing this KRS-One thing. So I came off, my opening line when we battled was "White boy, first off, before you come in here biting Kris Parker, you gon' have to get a whole lot darker!" That's the only thing I kinda remember but the crowd just started rolling and I went in at that point and they told me I won. "You won. Go backstage. You gon' have to battle Otherwize." So I'm like, "Cool."

    So now, Wendy Day. You can look her up. She got a lot of people millions and millions of dollars. Master P, Cash Money, Tung Twista, David Banner. She's very helpful. She has a very helpful website and everything. But I guess at that point she didn't understand battle rap. So she thought I was racist. So she came, tellin' me, "You're a racist! Why you have to say that?" She was upset because he had lost. But Eminem came and shook my hand and he was cool. He was like, "Man, I understand." He wasn't trippin' and he gave me his cassette and I was like, "Thank you."

    So backstage, me and Otherwize were high fivin' like, "Man, we did it! Cool!" So maybe five minutes later they call me back, like, "Ay, you gotta battle this kid Eminem again." I'm like "I already beat him! Why I gotta battle again?" So we battle again and he was determined to be the winner and they sent him to finals. So now, I know I wasn't supposed to be in this, but I'm upset because what kinda arrangement is this? He won one. I won one. Shouldn't that be a draw? But they said, "No, he won." So he went on and Otherwize ended up beatin' him, and the footage is on YouTube but they only show what Eminem said. They don't show what any of the other rappers said. And the guy videoing it, I knew him because I used to work for him! And If I ever see him I'm gonna ask him, "Do you have that footage?" 'Cause man, I would love to see that 'cause I remember that night. The guys from Project Blowed were picking me up in the air like, "Imp, you did it! You did your thing!" So it was a good feelin' that night, even though I didn't win. As far as I was concerned it was still a victory.

    And then, even in the contest, here's another thing I had to deal with! I had to diss the host 'cause he said, "Old dude, you old. What you gonna do?" (laughs) And the funny thing is, I never looked old! So that was my whole thing. I never looked like I was an old dude but if you don't look like you twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, I guess. Back in the day, I guess if you looked twenty something, they'd say you too old to be in this game! So I had to diss the host 'cause he tried to clown me. And people were sayin', "Man, you don't know who you talkin' to!" But he was cool. Once I checked him, he was cool.

    But I believe in myself. If I ever thought I was garbage, and sometimes I sit back and just from me not havin' any real success in this game, it makes me question myself. 'Cause I have some friends and when they rap to me, I be like, "That nigga old school. He really old school." 'Cause they don't wanna step outside of what they've been doin' the last twenty years. At least I try to step out the box. If I'm rappin' over a different beat, I'm thinkin' it's gonna make me evolve and create a new style or something. Like some people tell me, "Oh, I want you to rap like this." Like, I already did that! Why would I go back and do that? I mean, I might go back and do that sometimes and no matter what I do, you're still gonna hear the old school with it. But I'm always trying to find something new and innovative. I really wanna do a project that's different, that's really different, you know?

In 2005, you dropped an album called Family Ties with your son and a guy called Goldie. Is he related to you as well?

    Goldie is my nephew from Baltimore. That's my sister's son. But I hadn't been in his life 'cause he was in Baltimore and I was in California. So I went to Baltimore one day and he was rappin'  and I could see he was tryin' to hold back. And I was like, "Joey, do you, man. I'm your uncle and everything, but I'm not trying to come here and pop up in your life and demand things from you. I mean, I'ma watch you, and if you doin' the wrong thing, I'ma let you know." But he was tryin'a act like he didn't smoke and he didn't drink. But I was like, "Do you." But anyway, prior to that we did the Patterson Park album. I recorded that down there. Then once he came to California, we did the Family Ties album. He didn't wanna do it. I wanted to do one, just him, but he said he wouldn't do it unless I was on it with him. I wanted to push him. But he refused. He was like, "Nah, if you ain't doin' the album, I'm not gon' do an album." So we did the Family Ties. My son wasn't rappin' then. He was more a producer then. He was very sharp. He switched up on me, but he was so sharp. He was like, "No, the producers get the money. I'ma be behind the scenes. I'm takin' care of the business." So he did a lot of the beats on there and he's actually not rappin' on no songs on there. That's just me and Goldie.

    I mean, I've got stories. We went on tour. I've got hours and hours of footage of stuff when we went on tour. Down south, after Hurricane Katrina, in 2004, 2005, we went on tour. Just promotin', gettin' out, doin' things. And we actually had some momentum but things, people, you know, when you see anybody, any group, that's been together for a long time, you gotta commend that because it's real hard to get a group of individuals to focus and actually meet a goal. So that whole situation ended up goin' down the drain. I ended up busting a u-turn at Texas and came back home. That pretty much ended Family Ties.

After that, you released the Team B.A.M.M album, which featured a lot of tracks with Otherwize. Was Otherwize ever a part of By Any Means Music?

    He wasn't really a part of By Any Means Music. He was just part of that project. I was livin' in Palmdale at the time and he was up there and our goal was to make an album in one day. That was the goal. We challenged ourselves because we had two different producers. We had more, but me and my son were the main producers. I dealt with hardware. He dealt with software. He done the Fruity Loop thing. I did the MPC thing. So he's in one room. I'm in one room. Everybody's writin'. The house is crazy. People doin' this, doin' that. We ended up gettin', I don't know, six or seven songs done. And, you know, I started thinkin' it was a bad idea. Later, a guy from New York came out who supposedly did an album in one day. We was ahead of the game on a lot of stuff. If you listen to the freestyle on Patterson Park, we got a freestyle called "Alphabetical Slaughter" and Papoose ended up making a thing like way, way later. So a lot of stuff I see going down in the underground circuit, whether it was the Project Blowed, the Good Life, Straight Off the Streets Productions, By Any Means Music. You know, we did it, we just didn't have the backing to get to that level.

    And I think about that all the time. What I'm doing and everything I've done thus far has been out of my pocket and out of my grind and out of my hustle. I've never had, really, besides Freddy Fred, and even in that situation I paid for the studio time. I actually paid him, still, to do beats for me and everything. So all of this stuff was me and a lot of the knowledge was me and my intuition and, like I say, my hustle! And I always think, "Man, If I did all of that and for whatever the quality is, or however good it came out, just imagine what that would sound like if I had a chance to be with a producer, with a Kanye West, a DJ Premier, a Dr. Dre, a Timbaland, or anybody!" I've never had that. One time, with Family Ties, I was in a real studio 'cause I had some money and we had to take it somewhere else to get mixed 'cause the guy was trippin'. But I would love to do that. Hopefully one day I can have a budget. Somebody who says, you know, "This guy's good. Let's do it right," you know? But I've never had that opportunity. But I never let that stop me 'cause if I did, where would I be at? If I said, "I'ma wait until I get a deal," nothing I've ever done would be anything! It wouldn't exist!

In 2011 you released Suicide Note, which is a pretty unique album in your catalogue. Was that album inspired by stuff you were going through in your real life?

    Part of everything I do is life. If you listen to the actual song "Evolution of a Man" I talk about putting the gun to my head. "I put the gun to my head and ask the Lord why was I ever born." A lot of thoughts come in my head, like everybody else, but the thing is do you act on those thoughts? I mean, I would never act on it. All of the suicide that was goin' on, and that whole album, to be honest, is not what I intended. It's part of what I intended, but when I hooked up with a guy - I actually did get a little help on that one - and he thought it was too dark. I wanted to make an album that you would be scared to listen to by yourself. But I was persuaded to not go that route. It ended up being a lot lighter. Even the album cover. The album cover I had, they was like, "No, you can't do that." My album cover was gonna be crazy!

That's a shame. That'd be cool to hear an album like that from you.

Yeah, the album cover I had in mind was gonna be, like if you look down at it, you see a skull, and stickin' up through the mouth of the skull (laughs) is a double barrel shotgun, and the head was blown out, but lookin' out through the skull you can see the hand on the desk writing [a suicide note]. So I had a cold, cold album cover, and even when I did the bear, which I pretty much jacked that from the internet and had a friend add some blood and stuff, but I got a friend, he's like Snoop Dogg, he's a pimp, and he called me up, like, [in Snoop voice] "Hey man, I like your music but you cannot have that album cover. My ladies, they sleep with a teddy bear! How can you do this to the teddy bear?" (laughs) But he had me rollin'. He had an issue with me cuttin' the teddy bear's head off. 

Your most recent project Old Dog New Tricks featured Konvick, Medusa, Mister CR and Ellay Khule among others. Was that an album or more of a mixtape?

    It started out as a mixtape but when you go to sell it, it's an album so I look at it like - people tell me, when I said it was a mixtape, "Man, that's an album." Like, okay, it's an album. Whatever you wanna call it. But yeah, once again, that started out as a concept of me embracing the old. Like, yeah, I'm old but I've got some new tricks. You know, I can still do what's happenin'. I've done shows and when I'm finished I get the young people tellin' me, "Man, I can't believe you that old and doin' this and rappin' like that." And the older people be like, "Man, you motivate me. I was gonna quit but you inspired me." So I get that and I like that, I appreciate that.

    But yeah, I downloaded a lot of the beats. If I really, really liked the song I went ahead and bought it. So some of 'em don't have the tags on 'em. The one with me, Medusa and Konvick, we recorded that at Medusa's house in Leimert Park. I think I had the verse done and I had the beat and Medusa came up with the hook. I had some part of it but she added her flavour to it. Then Konvick threw his part on there. Rifleman and CR, we recorded that at Rifleman's house. You know, I had a little mac laptop and a mic and I would just take that around, if I had to. I think pretty much most of it I did in Palmdale. I had a real nice studio up there.

    My brother really likes that one, the guy who got me into rap. He called me two days ago like, "Man, what're you doing with that Old Dog New Tricks? I think that's your best album!" I deal with that a lot too. People sayin' I'm not doin' it right. Man, I'm doin' everything I can do! A lot of these people are not even in the game. I got an open ear to what they sayin'. I'm not saying just because they're not in the game they don't know what the hell they talkin' about. But they don't know I already did that and I'm still doin' that. But with my brother, I'm like "Man, I did that in 2013." He like, "I be playin' your CD again. Why you ain't doin' this? Why you ain't doin' that?" I'm doin' all of that! Some of what they askin' I can't do!

And Old Dog New Tricks 2 is coming out soon?

    Yeah, I was just playin' it in the car. I think I have about fourteen songs. I got a song called "Dreams." I think I put one on Youtube called "Hear My Story." It's about my life, about how my father was abusive, about me getting beat up in New York, running away to Baltimore. So it's about those three cities: New York, Baltimore and L.A. New York was the abuse of my father. L.A. was the gangbangin'. This was the murder capital! L.A. was crazy! Me and my friend were talkin' the other day and he was sayin', "Man, this was the wild west!" It was a whole different mentality. It was a different code of rules. A lot of people are doin' stuff that would've got 'em killed back then, and that's good. I'm glad it's not like that anymore. But some people doin' stuff that would've got their cap peeled. Baltimore, when I lived there, the house I ran away to was full of war vets and some of them had been in a mental institution called Crownsville 'cause they was war vets, they were traumatized and this, that and the other. So I had moments back then where uncles tried to stab me. I had uncles stab up my cousins, my sisters. I woke up one night and my cousin had a mirror and they stabbed him in the head with a mirror. I woke up one night and my uncle was standing over me with an axe. There were shootings and everything. So for me to be who I am and as cool as I am I think that's good considering all I've been through. I sold heron in New York was I was twelve. My brother, a half brother, had me selling heron. You know, I did it for a little bit. And I think about it and it's like, man, that's not cool. Gettin' your little brother to sell heron.

    So I've been through a lot. I've been through the gangbanging, hustling, selling drugs, violence and at the same time I used to walk alone. I always walked alone. New York had gangs. The Black Spades, The Peacemakers. They had different gangs in New York. Baltimore had gangs. The Marshall Gang. L.A., the Crips, the Boods, the this, the that. I never joined a gang. I've also been solo bolo for the most part. And I'm not a tough guy or nothin' but I'm a thorough dude and I pretty much go where I wanted to go, do what I do and pretty much never had any problems. I had more problems out of family and friends, the people that supposed to love you. I get more disrespect and more things outta them than killers (laughs).

The last thing I wanted to ask you - we kind of touched on it already - but what's planned for the future?

    The thing about being an artist is I have million damn ideas in my head. I got concepts and everything. But I stay with my roommate now and some of his characteristics aren't that cool but then some of the things that I think aren't that cool, I'm starting to understand why he's that way because I've spent a lot time rippin' and runnin', doin' all this in hip-hop. And it's taken it's toll on me physically. It's taken money. It's taken time. It's not bein' able to sleep. And he don't want me to stop. He's just tellin' me to slow down so I'm startin' to listen to him and I'm starting to see some of the stuff he does. So I wanted finish up Old Dog New Tricks 2. And I have to stay focused, 'cause I'll be all over the place. But If I ever had a budget, I'd make some shit work. I could definitely do a lot especially if I didn't have to be a one man army, you know, trying to be Mr. Everything. But if I'm not Mr. Everything it won't be anything.


  1. Hey thanks guys. Also to the readers please leave a comment if you've read this article. Here's a link to my song "Hear My Story".