In the conclusion of this two part interview, the Aftermath MC talks studio sessions with Dre and the state of his relationship with The Game.
It’s been almost two years since Carson, CA native Bishop Lamont was hand-picked by Dr. Dre to be a part of one of rap’s most celebrated label, Aftermath Records. Since joining the label, Bishop Lamont has stirred up the hip-hop scene with the release of his street mixtape N*gger Noize, and more recently Caltroit with Detroit Producer Black Milk, all while preparing for his Aftermath debut The Reformation. However, being the protegé of Dr. Dre means having to live up to high standards. Fans worldwide have their eyes on Lamont, waiting to see the outcome of his work on both his own album and on the album that already has reached mythical status, Dre’s Detox. In the conclusion of a two part interview, XXLMAG.COM caught up with Bishop Lamont to get some insight into an artist that many are counting on to be the future of West Coast hip-hop.
Let’s talk about the new Caltroit mixtape with you and Black Milk. It really outshines a lot of retail releases in terms of quality and creativity…
That was the goal. It’s about making these muthafuckas put their money where their mouth is instead of fans doing that and wasting their money on lackluster albums and on artists that are wack as a muthafucka! You’ve got artists that don’t put their all in to it and just settle on paying T-Pain for hooks. Artists have to dig deeper than that. It [Caltroit] was also about putting the music up for free and letting the people place a value on it…[As fans] We’ve spent money for years on these muthafuckas and they have never given back, so before you even spend money on me, I’ve spent money on y’all. It kind of hit home when I was overseas and I bumped in to Pharaohe Monch at some Jamaican restaurant and we were just talking hip-hop and how powerful it was this far away from home. People take that for granted and don’t realize the impact that their music can have.
How much money did you personally invest in the mixtape?
[Laughs] I don’t even want to say the amount. I did it in the best of studios…We recorded it at the Can Am Studio, the very same room where 2Pac made All Eyez On Me. I also recorded at Record One Studio as well. That’s where Dre came on aboard and blessed it. I also did some recordings out in Detroit and London, England for it too. We’ve got more that we are going to pop on your ass because we cut so many records, I had to make a Part 2: Caltroit Metropolis. I was out in London and we got to record at this place called Metropolis. More amazing music came from that.
One of the tracks that really got my attention was “Inconvenient Truth,” where you talk about how rap artists use the same tired formula to make music.
It needs to be said though. Even the muthafuckas that sit up at the offices and make all of the money off of it know it’s bullshit, but that’s the way they make their money. Since their jobs is to get their checks and to put bullshit out, it doesn’t hurt their heart. But for the artists that know better but they do what they have to do in order to pay their bills…[pauses]…This is always my thing. If you are not about the movement, then say that you aren’t about the movement. Don’t pretend to be about the movement, put out bullshit and then always have an explanation for it. We came into a state of political correctness out of fear of retaliation. It started when 2Pac and Biggie died, but their deaths had nothing to do with hip-hop. The media wanted to make it an East Coast/West Coast thing. That’s when the beginning of being politically correct in hip-hop started, though. Because back in the day, if you had wack shit, niggas would tell you that you had wack shit. If you were biting niggas rhymes, they would tell you that you were biting. But now everything is allowed. You can rap over the same type of beat that this other nigga used last year or you can take the same hook that this other nigga had two or three years ago or just flip it around. You can flip the same hook off of a club song four different ways and make another club song. When Ol Dirty Bastard made “Brooklyn Zoo,” he wasn’t thinking about no club song, but it bangs in the club! When Craig Mack made “Flava In Ya Ear” he wasn’t thinking about a club either, but that also bangs in the club.
Obviously you had a lot of freedom to make whatever you wanted to make on this mixtape, but is there going to be a tug-of-war with Interscope over the kind of music on your album?
That’s the beauty of working with Dre. It’s about making the freshest shit. Dre doesn’t care about the radio. He told me, “I’ve never made a record on purpose just to be on the radio.” Every time it has worked. So that’s never been a concern of mine. My concern is to be able to present and bring the best quality of music that I can. To come up with the best concepts and make them to be dope ass records. Then from there it’s up to Interscope to deal with the rest of the bullshit [laughs]. You know, the videos, Access Granted and so forth. But as long as the people receive the music adequately and correctly, that’s the concern. I don’t give a fuck about the rest of the shit. I don’t care about who’s the King of this or that. I don’t give a fuck about that. You will be able to look back one day at the body of my work and see what I stand for. I’m really about unity. I’m really about the hip-hop movement. I’m really about all of this shit that a lot of niggas pretend to be about. I’m already on my way to being as rich as a muthafucka regardless, so it’s not about money [laughs]. It isn’t about wealth. The wealth is what we put into the music and who it inspires, who it helps get through the bullshit that they are going through and the next niggas that you bring in to the game. That’s what Caltroit was about. Detroit is like a second home to me, the flyest niggas in the world. And there’s so many dope-ass West Coast niggas, so we brought them all together. It makes the hip-hop movement so much more powerful.
We also got the chance to hear your street single, “Feel On It,” recently…
Yes, and be on the look out for the remix! I can’t even talk about it, but it’s coming in about two weeks. Me and “Hell Yeah” did a crazy ass record together. “Hell Yeah” is my code name for a certain artist, since it’s a secret right now. You know, some people can maybe get a beat from Dre if they’re kind of lucky, but I get the best beats from Dr. Dre and I get him bustin’ on my songs! And he’s on my Caltroit mixtape!
So all of this is getting us ready for The Reformation album…
Yes sir… But also before that, myself and DJ Whoo Kid have a mixtape coming out called The Confessional. Just for all of the love that niggas in New York and on the East Coast are showing me. Me and Whoo Kid had to do something. The Confessional should be popping up soon too. I know that he’s on tour with 50 right now getting that money but as soon as he gets back, that’s poppin’ too.
Do you have a real time frame for The Reformation album?
We’re really looking at the first quarter. I like to keep it mysterious because I want it to just pop up on niggas. I’ve been brainstorming on the whole approach for it. I hate saying anything because I like to come out of nowhere like Jaws. Like Will Smith every time he comes out with a movie and takes everybody’s money.
Any thoughts on the delays that have happened to some Aftermath albums?
Delays do happen, but if fans could ever have a window to look in and see, they would understand that Dre works. He wants it to be the best. He’s not going to tolerate anything except the best. You don’t understand the time that he will put in on just doing the mixes or laying the vocals. Then possibly relaying vocals and then relaying vocals again.
How many retakes has he ever made you do for a song?
No more than I do myself. You can ask my engineers! On my own, I will do maybe 15 or 20 takes and with Dre about anywhere from 7 to 15 takes. I’m really a harsh perfectionist about my own work.
I’ve heard horror stories about rappers doing hundreds of takes with him.
That’s on them. I come from that school of listening to all of that Death Row stuff. I listened to Lords Of The Underground, Busta Rhymes, Redman and Keith Murray, where your takes had to be so clean and ill to get off the phonetics that you were dropping. Your lines had to be crisp. Other cats don’t come from that school. When I get in to the booth, I already know what I’m looking for out of myself. Some cats aren’t trained like that so of course they’re going to do a hundred takes. I’ve seen him do it to cats. I’m not going to say any names, but I’ve seen him do that. I feel embarrassed for them, but there’s a great lesson in it. To those rappers, of course you’re going to have to do a hundred takes if you’re high out of your mind or drunk out of your mind! The ability to execute it properly isn’t there. I’m doing shit sober or with a slight buzz. Don’t come in thinking that you’re going to get it in the first take when you’re hammered out of your fuckin’ mind! I’ve been able on some records to come and get it on the first or second take, but that’s rare.
How long did it take to develop that skill? It didn’t obviously happen overnight…
I’ve been doing this for years. When you first start off, you emulate and imitate your favorite MCs. You learn their tones and their styles. I can pretty much imitate or duplicate anybody’s style that’s a favorite MC of mine. It took me studying Redman, Method Man, Keith Murray and Wu-Tang. Listening to Kurupt, Daz, Jay-Z, Biggie and Snoop Dogg over and over again. It’s not an overnight thing and you’re only conscious [of] it if you’re searching for it. Most people are satisfied with their style or satisfied with sounding one way. You want to approach the art form the same way that great singers approach things. Go listen to Donny Hathaway. I want to feel that I’m creating the same thing, but lyrically. I want to approach it the same way, like when Stevie Wonder first learned about synthesizers, because that’s when the magic comes in.
You also have your own label called Diocese. How did you work that out?
Dre blessed me with an opportunity to do the same thing that he’s been able to do, that 50 has been able to do. It’s not just about me, but also about bringing more talent to the forefront.
Do you already have artists under that label?
I’ve got a few cats that I am working with, some of the homies. If I give you the handshake and tell you that we’re rollin’, then we are rollin’. I’ve got Mike Anthony, Taje’, Indef and Chevy Jones. Me and Mykestro are working on something. We’re even doing alternative stuff on some rock shit. If I find a dope ass country group, I don’t give a fuck [laughs]. It’s about dope ass music. I love all kinds of music and it’s about bringing dope musicians to the forefront. Dope MC’s, dope singers, dope producers.
What’s up with you and The Game? Did you guys ever officially resolve that little situation where he dissed you in a song last year?
Man, that’s the question that doesn’t get asked enough. Game jumped on the air and apologized for it but I never talked to the dude. I was like, “It ain’t nothing.” I still got love for dude. I overlooked that shit because I know where it came from. He was upset about the situation that he was in. I can’t take it personal. I wanted to beat him up. I did feel that way. I wanted to put hands on him. But if you really get the chance to meet Game or get to know Game, he is a good person. He just kind of got caught up in some shit and made the wrong decision. He’s a young cat, younger than me. But when I found out about him apologizing, I let it go because it wasn’t interesting to me in the first place because like I said before, he made me more famous [by doing that]. He reminded me that I was actually going to be somebody and was somebody relevant to this hip-hop shit. New York niggas were like, “Who is the fuck is Bishop?” Down South niggas were also like, “Who the fuck is Bishop?” You just gave me fans with that, so thank you. I wanted to send him a bottle of wine for that.
When it happened initially, Dre called me like four times that day and was like, “Dude. Do not respond.” And I ain’t going to not listen to my big bro, you know? But I had bars for his ass just because. Just for the art of MCing. But it was never anything serious like that. I’ve got love for Game. His little sister is my little sister. Big Fase is my big brother. We are all family. Dude knows. I was there in Harlem when he was going through shit with 50 and just had the Peace Conference. We were sitting up in the hotel room, me, him and D-Mac. I was like, “Are you good? Is your soul good? Learn from your mistakes.” I was always the nigga pushing the nigga and out there speaking for the nigga when there were situations that he couldn’t speak for himself. Guerilla Black is my nigga. That’s how I met Game—Guerilla Black introduced us. So when those two had their situation, I was right there like, “Yo! This shit ain’t right! You shouldn’t be dissing Guerilla Black.” Guerilla Black had every right to diss back but I was on his back like, “Naw. We’re all a team!” So [how] does it look for a nigga that has always been your mediator to turn around and to cause trouble?
I always tell the fans, “Don’t believe all of that wrestler shit!” Niggas be on records talking this and that like the TV wrestlers. The only thing that did piss me off that The Game did was he was doing interviews saying, “The dude needs to sit down and take that before I kick his little ass.” I was like, “Nigga do you know me? You must not remember me?” I am a grown ass man. I don’t play that shit. As a man, that was disrespectful, but you’ve got to understand that I wasn’t used to all of that shit, because this is all like “wrestling.” The Macho Man doesn’t really talk like that once he leaves the ring. Hulk Hogan ain’t really like that tearing up shirts and shit. That’s what I had to understand.
Okay. It sounds like it’s a non-issue.
I still would love to talk to the dude. We can even make a fresh record together. But there’s always the thing with people’s egos and where they are with their lives.
A Bishop and Game song would be insane…
That shit would be super fresh! Some people get twisted about me. They think that I am some sort of “arch-nemesis.” I’m not thinking about none of that shit. I’m thinking about how Glasses Malone, Mykestro, Crooked I, Taje’, Ras Kass and all of these other dope niggas can be doing things together, not apart. It’s about us all doing things together.