So after years of wondering how I was going to get in touch with one of my favorite MC’s of all time, I was finally able to interview C Brown of Leaders Of The New School (shout out to Raheem for the big assist). Where has he been? What has he been doing? Yes, these were my first questions. Well, Brown informed me that he is still in the music industry in a way, but not in the way you may think. He is currently creating jingles for commercials and companies and has been doing it for the last ten years. According to Brown, they reached out to him and asked for him. Nice to know there is an LONS fan in advertising!
What were the specific artists that you listened to growing up?
Melle Mell, Grandmaster Caz and the Cold Crush 4, Afrika Bambaataa. From there hip hop was on vinyl a lot more and I started listening to Run DMC, Beasties, Whodini, and Jungle Brothers. I’m a big fan. I listened to a lot of reggae, which influenced my vocal style like the noises they make when they chat. Brown raps and gives an example of his style on A Future Without A Past.
When did LONS form?
That came about in 85. I started the group, I hand picked each member of the group.The group name came from Chuck D.
And your MC name came from Chuck D as well?
Was there a reason why you picked each member?
Well, Dinco I liked the way that he wrote. He wrote good rhymes and he lived around the corner.We did demo tapes at a mutual friends house, that’s how we hooked up. Busta, I met him through battling. I used to battle and he used to beat box, one day I was gigging on him and he was beat boxing. I started snapping and he didn’t like that and wrote a rhyme called “The Annihilator” (laughs). He came back and wrote a dope rhyme and he got me that day cause I was freestyling. So I said “Ok, lets become a group” and we became a group.
And how did you actually meet Chuck D and break into the industry?
I met Chuck D through my brother and he had a studio in Hempstead. They used to have a group called Spectrum City. I used to be a crate boy for my brother so I met them through them and going to parties and handing out flyers for Chuck D’s parties. I started going to the radio station when Chuck, Flava, and Dr. Dre from Yo MTV Raps had a show up at Adelphi University. He used to take us to a lot of seminars.
What was Chuck’s reaction when he first heard you?
They loved it! They thought our styles was different and they felt the group name fit us. We were in school, we had new styles, and Busta played drums it added a lot more dimension to the group.We were cutting our demos just trying to get on, we was real young though.
Did being young make it more difficult?
We had to come up with some of the money for recording. We wrote about different topics. It was fun recording the first album and we were doing shows.
After the first record was finished what was the transition between that and the 2nd record?
The first album was conceptualized like a school day and everything that happens in school like cutting out and going to a hooky party that’s like “Zonecoaster.” Just different topics that happen in a school day, talking about that from a young perspective. The T.I.M.E album was more getting into depth about things.
The first single from T.I.M.E had a different flavor than a lot of the stuff on the record.
Dinco produced “Whats Next?” and I helped him out. He had the loop but he didn’t have the whole drums, and some of the ideas. I made a lot of the chorus for the group. Brown raps the chorus from “What’s Next?”
Production wise what kind of input did you guys have within the group? Did you take a more active role in the studio with the 2nd record?
The first album we had Backspin , SD50s,and on the 2nd album we let Large Pro do the remix for the first single and Diamond D do the remix for the 2nd single.
At what point in the 2nd record did the group start to pull apart and cracks form?
During “Scenario”, like in between albums. Everyone wanted Busta to go to solo and they were saying we were having problems in the group. He wanted to do Flipmode and make his mark that way so we started having problems.
It seems that in the past that those problems got talking about happening solely between you and him. Was that the case? Was there friction within the whole group?
There was a lot of friction between me and Busta, there was a lot of friction between everyone. Everyone wanted to make decisions. A lot of it came down to me and Busta because we made the most decisions in the group. It was more like a democracy and everyone had a share 25% like a corporation. Most of the decisions were still made by me and Busta and if we agreed with it everyone flowed but if we didn’t agree, there were problems.
Was he unhappy with the direction of the 2nd album?
He wanted different tracks… he wanted gutter like how he raps now. I didn’t want him to do that I wanted us to keep our stuff clean not too much cursing. Keep our stuff like De La or Tribe.
Native Tongues rather than Coke Rap.
Yeah, we were differently a part of the Native Tongues. Our vibe. We were down with Zulu nation as well.
Can you discuss the Yo MTV Raps performance?
I just walked off the set. Busta kept talking shit and I didn’t feel like hearing his mouth so I just got mad and left.
Was it dominating performances?
Performances were always great. It was mostly behind the scenes shit.
So it crossed over into that?
At that point he started talking shit on the set and it started leaking into it and I didn’t feel like hearing it so I was like, “fuck it.” He wanted to piss me off so he could go and do his own thing and he wanted an excuse to do his own thing. And I understood that later on, you know what I’m saying? I haven’t spoke to him, my brother saw him when he performed at BB Kings recently. Busta gave him a lot of respect cause he started us out by just DJing up in theroom, so he showed my brother love. So I guess he ain’t feeling that bad and has no ill feelings towards me. I have no ill feelings towards him and I’m glad he’s doing his thing and is successful. It just shows that his beginnings were humble and we were too. We were an underground group but we were breaking new ground. “Scenario,” that goes down as one of the best posse cuts ever. As far as two groups collaborating it goes down with the “Symphony” and other great collabos of artists.
What happens if “Scenario” never came about? Would the future have been different?
I think we would have made better records. I think we would have started making different records. I would have listened to Busta more and started making more hardcore records. After that time, Onyx came out and groups started making harder records. Busta wanted to come hardcore, I didn’t mind it but I wanted to make shit that was more universally accepted. Shit you could play from your grandparents to the little ones.
I don’t know if that rough style would have fit the group if it would have been received.
Not so much like the rest of the him cause like hardcore to us is like old school hardcore. Like “Bass Is loaded” was kinda hardcore to us.
T.I.M.E. was a lot darker in content.
Yeah, darker. We would have went darker on our shit.
What about the rest of the guys and your relationship with them?
I’m cool with Milo, Busta’s cousin. He also MC’s and he has a website Milo In De Dance Productions (http://www.myspace.com/miloindedance) and a lot of music is on there.
What about Dinco?
I saw Dinco last night he dropped me a beat, we are supposed to do a track. The beat is hot.
So is there a possibility of you releasing a track together in the future?
There is a possibility of that.
What happened in between because you had the solo track on Busta’s album?
It was kind of a fucked up funny vibe, we talked about the money a little bit. We did it out of respect for Busta and the label didn’t want to let us go. It was kinda fucked up we were looking at Busta to help us out and it created animosity for mad years and mad hard feelings towards him. Dinco, Milo and myself weren’t feeling him. He wasn’t taking care of certain shit that he coulda looked out on and he felt like “I’m not looking out for shit, I’m looking out for myself.”
So basically he could have helped your situation out at the label and stayed solo?
You said you have been making commercials for the last 10 years what has your involvement been behind the scenes?
I see cats in the city sometimes. Different artists and producers. But when I go to the studio to work Ive been recording my own stuff there. Its good for me to record my own stuff and see how my skills are. My skills aren’t bad. My stuff sound old school it doesn’t sound like this new shit that’s out, but its cool.
So you are saying it would sound similar to stuff fans heard before? Have you changed?
My style has changed a lot. My voice, I use more metaphors in my writing, you would have to hear it. It’s a revolve-olution. The content I got a song about me growing up in the hood, women. With Leaders, we didn’t talk about women a lot. A lot of the stuff we could have talked about as Leaders we didn’t and we would have gotten a broader appeal and sold more records. We just talked about us, skills and shit. Dark metaphors, different analogies and whatever topic we were rhyming about whatever the song title was. Just trying to conceptualize T.I.M.E, The Inner Mind’s Eye. The source gave it 4 mics they said it was one of those go out and look for it albums.
I believe its aged well. People still dig that record. Do you have a favorite track from everything you have done?
The “Scenario” and “Scenario” remix. The Leaders cut would be ” Teachers Don’t Teach Us Nonsense,” “Sound Of The Zeekers,” “Bass Is Loaded,” and “Syntax Era.”
What about “Quarter To Cutthroat”?
I produced that.
You tried to kill that verse!
Brown raps the intro- “Bring one mc, two mc….” That was when I stepped up and tried doing different things. Busta was doing his own thing, I had to try and do mine. I had crazy styles. Leaders tried to concentrate on having crazy different styles and sampled a lot of different shit. We really worked on the arrangement.
So are you producing your own tracks?
Anyone you would want to work with?
Large Professor, Diamond D, Pete Rock. Anyone Nas used on his first album.
Anyone from back then that you are listening to currently?
I’m an old school cat so I really don’t like these new cats or their production. Their content, they are getting paid. Soulja Boy, I don’t like shit like that. (We proceed to talk about recent quality hip-hop and Sean Price for several minutes.)
Have you set a time line regarding release?
I’m supposed to have a meeting with someone from Europe on Monday about getting some stuff distributed. I don’t know how that’s going to go. I’m thinking about just putting it out over the internet and releasing the shit. The buzz will be there.