Sitting down to do this interview was instantly intimidating. I have been listening to Living Legends and following their individual careers for as long as I can remember and to top it off they were sitting down to dinner as I got there.
The Grouch and Eligh originally started making music together as the group Living Legends and continue to make music and travel together into their solo careers. Heres what they had to say about their journeys to where they are now and the state of hip hop.
Orora Munroe: When you guys first started rapping, did you ever think that you would get as big as you have?
Grouch: Well, we always hoped that it would. We actually started as solo artists before Living Legends and then we did the big group thing and that seemed to take off well with everybody, so we just used that as a platform and always maintained our solo careers. We just went at it nonstop. I do expect it to get bigger. We put a lot of work into [it].
OM: So, you took Mystic Journeymen, the Three Melancholy gypsies and you [Grouch], and those groups eventually came together and formed Living Legends. What made you guys decide to take that jump and create something new?
Eligh: Well, that’s not exactly correct. It’s way more detailed and strange.
OM: Fill us in!
E:Well, Scarub, Murs and I were together as Three Melancholy Gypsies in high school. Everybody left high school and kind of went their separate ways. We had another crew in L.A called Log Cabin, which is a bunch of people kind of like Living Legends. Like 9 or 10 people and we made a whole album together and kind of everybody dissipated and separated and I ended up moving up to the Bay on a random occurrence. I met Grouch through a cousin of mine, and Grouch was already friends with Mystic Journeymen, and those three had already met Murs through some other random occurrence so they knew each other. I didn’t know Murs knew them, or they knew Murs and all the sudden I realized, “Dude, you know Murs? I went to high school with him. We started rapping together.” It was just weird coincidences like that. If you want to call it that.
OM: Nice! That worked out nicely.
G: Yeah, it just kept rolling after that. Scarub came in later and a couple other guys.
OM: You guys do a lot of your own production on your own albums as well as others’ and MC of course. How did you get your hands into production?
E:I guess for me, the same time I started writing was the same time I started taking pieces of loops on tapes and going back and forth and making them into longer loops, and I have always liked both at the same time, so it happened at the same time. I didn’t actually learn how to make a beat on a machine until I met him [Grouch] and he showed me how to use an SR10, which is a keyboard sampler. From there I just fell in love. Still to this day, when I’m done rapping, I want to be scoring movies and working with music in that way. That’s my passion still.
G:I started wanting to produce and make beats before rapping. I had this old sampler called an Insonic Mirage. It’s a keyboard. For people that make beats today, they will never understand how limited we were back then. Right now, you have a computer and you want to make beats, you can record as long as you want, any kind of sound. The samplers we had back then, my sampler would sample for 2.5 seconds total. That means you have to make a beats out of only 2.5 seconds of sound so we would get record players and spin them with our fingers as fast as we could so that we could get the longest amount of audio into the machine, and then we would chop those pieces up and make beats out of them.
I have always wanted to be a producer but then a friend of mine convinced me to be a rapper as well and it just went from there.
OM: What’s both of your opinion about the direction of hip hop right now as a whole–the scene, the sound and how it’s changed?
G:I think hip hop is dope. Right now, it is fresh. There are so many good rappers. There are so many bad rappers. Everybody can play the game. Whoever wants to play can play the game. I think that’s cool. A lot of new rappers that are popular that I don’t like and there’s a couple that I really like, like Kendrick Lamar’s stuff, a lot. Its cool. Its in a good state to me. I think especially right now with Kendrick Lamar and a few other rappers out there, people who are actually saying stuff in their music are starting to be popular again. That’s how I feel like it used to be in the Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul days. Maybe that’s coming back. Where its not just about more superficial things.
E:I agree with him on the Kendrick Lamar aspect, and in some ways, I feel like it’s the same thing as its always been. There’s good rappers, there’s bad rappers. There’s good music, there’s bad music. It’s just more people are doing it now. So there’s more bad and more good, more period. I’m happy with it as well. It’s an open market
OM: You guys like some of the stuff that is coming out. What are your top albums in 2012?
G:The Kendrick Lamar album is hands down my favorite album of 2012. I like the Flying Lotus, I like Fiona Apple’s album, a lot of stuff, I just can’t think of it all right now.
E: Pretty much mirroring the same. Kendrick Lamar is definitely number one.
G:I forgot. Number two is Frank Ocean for me.
E:Frank Ocean, yeah. He and I have a lot of the same tastes and like a lot of the same stuff. Gina Spector’s new album, you should check that out. She is awesome. Those are my favorite albums this year.
OM: From the beginning, you guys have been pretty ambitious and you all have made names for yourself. What advice would you give a new MC starting from nowhere?
E:Make as much music as you can and practice performing and doing shows, because people don’t know how to perform now. That’s my biggest thing about kids now. They don’t know how to perform. They think it’s just [that] you’re supposed to rap over their own lyrics and let the song play and just rap over it. Walk around with their head down, looking backward, behind you; it’s not a good show. Learn how to perform.
G: Don’t do what everybody else is doing.
E: Yeah! Don’t do what everybody else is doing. Do you. Do something different. Different is good. I would just say do something to change some shit. I don’t wanna hear the same shit over and over.
OM: Heroes in the Healing of a Nation came out last year with Zion I. How would you say your styles and sound have changed since your first album with them in 2006?
G:I would say the first one is a little bit more, just a little bit harder than the second one, but the second one has its moments. Check it out: the sound is big, its bumpin, its slappin.
OM: I would like to talk about the GreyCrow album. Coming back to your music after getting clean, where was your head at for this album?
E:Grey Crow was my first solo album after getting clean, but my head space is all over that album. That’s the thing about what he does and what I do. We talk about what’s going on, period. That’s my main, its therapy. That’s what it is, and that album had a lot of messages about being clean, and I felt like I wanted to talk about that a lot. I talked about going backwards and kind of tracing my steps on how I started using drugs in the first place and running that whole line of a life story.
OM: Did you expect to impact other people’s lives in that album?
E: There is always a goal. That is the best thing that can come out of an album for me is to help somebody. Help somebody get through something or realize something, that’s a big bonus, but at the time, it’s just spilling your guts.
OM: Do you have any advice for someone who may be dealing with an addiction of their own?
E:My advice to someone that wants to stop, that’s the only people I can give advice to because other people, they don’t want to hear it. For me, I had to go to rehab because I couldn’t stop what I was doing on my own. I tried, it was too hard. I needed to go to rehab. I needed structure. I needed to surrender to someone helping me. So, that was the first step, and then I started going to 12-step meetings, NA meetings, that was huge for me. I still go to meetings now. My biggest advice would be to completely surrender.
OM: What was it like working with Amp Live on the Therapy at 3 album?
E:So great, so great. One of the fastest albums I have ever made. It went so quick because I didn’t have to worry about production. He would give me a beat, and every beat he gave me we used. It wasn’t like he gave me a beat and I’m like, “Aahhh I don’t like that one. Give me another one.” It was just like bam, bam, bam, bam, and just knocking songs out. That was really just mindless writing is what I call it, writing without my mind in the way. It’s kind of like spilling, spilling, spilling and really hearing what I am saying later. It was really cool to not have to worry about the beats. I just picked them and I wrote. To have someone else handle all of the production for once was great.
OM: I was here for your show last year as well, and the show of course was dope. How do you guys switch shows up every year and what can you tell your fans to expect this time around?
G: Well, for the How the Grouch Stole Christmas run, I just try to put together so that it is entertaining for the people. Last year we brought Zion I, Grouch and Eligh, which was cool because we have all worked together before, but we have never had a project together, so I thought that was going to be big. It was a cool idea because we all like working together, and to combine it onstage was super fun. This year, Prof caught my attention because he is a very good performer and I knew that Mr. Fab was a good performer already as well. I didn’t really have any magic Z&G&E things to pull out of my hat, so I just wanted to make it so that whoever comes to see the show, they leave saying, “I saw three very good performances.” Regardless of if they heard of the people before or if they were fans before they got there. I feel that no one can deny that everybody that goes on this tour and steps on stage is a great performer. That was my thought behind this year. It’s always a little bit different. Sometimes I want to bring up and coming younger people, like Los Rakas I brought one time, and Fashawn I brought when he was just coming up. Prof is on his way up, Fab is one of the greatest freestylers that I know and he incorporates that into his show. I wanted that to be a part of this year. A lot of things go into it.
E:It gets brought every time.
G: Make sure I’m a part of it every time, that’s what he says.
G: I try to make it so that its not just G & E every time because I know he wants to go and I want to bring him, but maybe it will be G & E every year.
G:Or maybe working on a Z & G & E album.
E:Yeah! That’s what I’m talkin about.
G:We’ll see what happens.
You heard it! A possible Z & G & E album in the works in the future!