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 beginning 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. You made a mixtape that outshines a lot of retail releases in terms of quality and creativity!
Bishop: That was the goal. It’s about making these motherfuckers 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 motherfucker! 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 [The Caltroit Mixtape] was also about putting the music up for free and letting the people place a value on it.
You must have invested a great deal of money in this mixtape!
Bishop: (laughs) I don’t even want to say the amount. I did it in the best of studios. I did it for the love of the music. The fans, I don’t even want to call them fans, I wanted my “people” to get it at it’s highest quality and best quality. It’s only right. [As fans] We’ve spent money for years on these motherfuckers and they have never given back, so before you even spend money on me, I have spent money on y’all. It kind of hit home when I was overseas and I bumped in to Pharaoh Monche 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.
I bring that up so the fans can get a grasp of what they are downloading for free. You may not want to discuss the amount but it’s got to be in the thousands just on the studio time alone.
Bishop: (laughs) Dogg, I don’t even want to talk about money. I’ll be paying that back next year when the album comes out. You know.. [pauses] … Naw I am going to get in trouble for saying that shit (laughs). Interscope didn’t know what I was up to!
I bet they were like, “What the f*ck is this guy doing?”
Bishop: (laughs) But anyway, top quality 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. You’ve got the nicest niggas in the world on there. 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 off of the Caltroit Mixtape was “Inconvenient Truth” where you talk about how rap artists use the same tired formula to make music.
Bishop: It needs to be said though. Even the motherfuckers 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. It needs to be said!! We came in to a state of political correctness out of fear of retaliation and it started when 2Pac & 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 2 or 3 years ago or just flip it around. You can flip the same hook off of a club song 4 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 Yo 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?
Bishop: 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 and that I stand for it. I am really about unity. I am really about the Hip Hop movement. I am really about all of this shit that a lot of niggas pretend to be about. I am already on my way to being as rich as a motherfucker regardless so it’s not about money (laughs). It isn’t about wealth. The wealth is what we put in to 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.
Let me read off my checklist here. You just dropped Caltroit. Then you have the Caltroit Metropolis CD?
Bishop: On Metropolis you’ve got Little Brother, Dilated Peoples, Mykestro, Mad-Lib, Lord Finesse, Pete Rock, all kinds of dope niggas…
Then you have the Pope Mobile CD after that?
Bishop: I am actually wrapping up the Pope Mobile right now for Christmas. The Pope Mobile is going to be crazy. It will be just in time for the Christmas stockings right before the album drops.
We also got the chance to hear your street single, “Feel On It” recently….
Bishop: Yes and be on the look out for the remix! I can’t even talk about it. But it’s coming in about 2 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 are 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!
(Laughs) Did that cost you the standard Aftermath in-house $75,000 fee? ’
Bishop: Naw, it didn’t cost me anything. That’s another thing too. How many of you niggas got Dr. Dre on your mixtapes (laughs)? I’ve got another surprise from “Hell Yeah” on that Caltroit Metropolis too.
I guess we are just going to have to wait to find out. That’s alright though. Us internet people are so used to getting everything immediately. It won’t kill us to wait for that.
Bishop: But we just gave them a real feast with Caltroit. That should be able to hold them over until then and they can make sandwiches out of that (laughs). Then I will break them off with The Pope Mobile and Caltroit Metropolis. I am getting people fat.
Then after that of course is The Reformation album…
Bishop: 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 is 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 timeframe for The Reformation album?
Bishop: We are 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.
What about the delays that have happened on some Aftermath albums?
Bishop: That is true, 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 is 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 on the vocals. Then possibly relaying vocals and then relaying vocals again.
How many retakes has he ever made you do for a song?
Bishop: 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 am really a harsh perfectionist about my own work.
I’ve heard horror stories about rappers doing hundreds of takes with him …..
Bishop: 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 am looking for out of myself. Some cats that are not trained like that so of course they are going to do a hundred takes. I’ve seen him do it to cats. I am not going to say any names but I’ve seen him do that and I feel embarrassed for them but there is a great lesson in it. To those rappers of course you are going to have to do a hundred takes if you are high out of your mind or drunk out of your mind! The ability to execute it properly isn’t there. I am doing shit sober or with a slight buzz . Don’t come in thinking that you are going to get it in the first take when you are hammered out of your fucking mind! I have been able on some records to come and get it on the first or second take, but that’s rare though.
How long did it take to develop that skill? It didn’t obviously happen overnight…
Bishop: I’ve been doing this for years. When you first start off, you emulate and imitate your favorite MC’s. You learn their tones and their styles. I can pretty much imitate or duplicate anybody’s style that is 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 are only conscious for it if you are 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 am 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. Tell us about that…
Bishop: 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, you know what I’m saying? It’s not just about me but also about bringing more talent to the forefront.
Do you already have artists under that label?
Bishop: 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 are 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.
Lastly, 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?
Bishop: Man that’s the question that doesn’t get asked enough. Game’s thing was and still to this day is he 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 is 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.
So then when it happened initially, Dre called me like 4 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 [The Game] ass just because. Just for the art of MC’ing. 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 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 so that’s why I tell the fans to don’t always believe that shit in the Hip Hop world.
Ok. It sounds like it’s been officially resolved….
Bishop: 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 ego’s and where they are with their lives.
I think that a Bishop & Game song would be insane….
Bishop: That shit would be super fresh! Some people get twisted about me. They think that I am some sort of “Arch-Nemesis.” I am not thinking about none of that shit. I am 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.
A lot of people out there don’t know that you had close ties to Snoop Dogg while growing up, due to your friendship with his younger brother Bada Bing.
Me and Bada Bing, along with a few other friends, used to be in Snoop’s garage all of the time making records. Snoop had put a studio in his garage at his Claremont, CA house. I used to watch them all get down. Battlecat, Kurupt, Daz, RBX, The Lady Of Rage would come by all of the time and it was a blessing to be a part of that. I was a kid watching my favorite rappers do their thing. I learned so many different techniques from watching all of them in the studio. It was an amazing time.
Do you still keep in touch with Snoop Dogg?
I haven’t seen Snoop in a few months. Me and Warren G went over to the studio to see him sometime back but it’s been a minute. It’s always the same though, I love the dude. He’s a great person and the dude goes through a lot of stuff. It always remains the same regardless of what you hear or what’s been said. I support him. Without Warren G and without Snoop, we [artists on the West] wouldn’t have what we have now. At one time there was a little old school versus new school going on here in the West. Me and Glasses Malone were thrown in the center of that and a lot of statements that were being spread around wasn’t true. We pretty much put all of that to rest though. That situation is where a lot of turbulence came but I love the dude and I am always going to support him.
Out of all of the rappers in the nation trying to get Dr. Dre’s attention, he chose to single you out over the airwaves of Los Angeles hip-hop station Power 106 a few years back. Tell us about having the greatest producer in the history of hip-hop big you up like that?
It didn’t seem real at the time and it still doesn’t seem real. It was surreal like a Disney movie [laughs]. But it took a lot of hard work to even get an opportunity like that and it was even harder to solidify that. I never ever want people to get misconstrued and to think that he said my name on the radio and then magically we just went in to the studio after that. It was a lot of hard work and he made sure that his decision was correct and I made sure that my decision was correct. It was the same way when I got to meet Dame Dash, Jay Z, Jermaine Dupri, and DJ Quik. You know, DJ Quik and Daz were some of the first people to ever want to sign me. I have to go on record to say that because they saw it first. I look up to them this day because they pretty much set me up to be ready for when Dre hit me over the head with that magic.
If you didn’t sign to Dre & Aftermath, what label do you think you would have ended up at?
I went out to New York and there was a huge bidding war. Everybody was putting out large amounts of money at the table. That’s how I really got close to Dame Dash. At the end of the day, I wanted to go to Roc-A-Fella. I believed in Dame’s business savvy and of course I loved Jay-Z. If you are a real MC, you love how Jay busts rhymes. I felt that they could understand where I was coming from as an MC because at the time labels weren’t trying to hear no niggas bustin’ from the West Coast. You had to be gangbangin’ and that ain’t me so I can’t even pretend. I really had my mind focused on Roc-A-Fella or Jermaine Dupri.
All of those dudes were after you?
I love Jermaine Dupri to this day. He’s a real ass nigga. He told me, “I can’t compete with Dr. Dre but I still wanted to meet with you just to meet you.” He didn’t have to do that. We sat down for about an hour that day. There was also Clive Davis, who was falling asleep in the meeting [laughs]. My boy Larry Jackson over there hooked that up. It was a blessing just to be sitting across the table from a music legend like that. I also met with Sylvia Roane at Motown. There’s so many beautiful people that have blessed my life and we are going to have relationships forever outside of music just because they wanted to take a chance on a broke little nigga from Carson, CA. Dame Dash is like my uncle, man. The dude went out of his way to compete with what Dre was trying to put on the table. He was like, “Shit. I’ll pull my checkbook out right now! What does it take?”
So aside from Dre being who he is, what was the deciding factor that brought you over to Aftermath?
It wasn’t just about Dre. I was already over at Aftermath doing ghost-writing and I already knew a lot of people there. I already had a family-type relationship with the staff. It made perfect sense for me. Why not go to Aftermath and have the niggas that work the records, really be your niggas? It worked out on all levels. Me and Dre had a meeting and he told me that he would make an offer that I couldn’t refuse. And he did just that. He kept his word and I believe that what’s about to take place will be even greater than what he envisioned at the time. The music that we’ve created and what we are putting the finishing touches on to, is an amazing thing. Dre is going to pull the best out of you. I can look at my records with Dre and my records without him and see an amazing difference. The confidence he gives me, the discipline he gives me and the drive me gives me. I am already a perfectionist on my own but stick that with a seasoned perfectionist and you’re going to get some amazing shit. I’ve learned from him to take an idea, nurture it and try to make it bigger. Or scrap that idea and try a different one. He always says, “Anything that we make, fresh or wack, nobody has got to hear it.” So with that you get that freedom in your mind, punch in the clock and do your fuckin’ job.
How tired are you of the Detox questions?
I am not tired of them. I understand and respect how much people are in to it. It’s dope to see how long it’s been and how people are still waiting to see it. They love and respect Dre. This dude [Dr. Dre] is going all out for it. I’ve always called it “The Return of The Jedi” because he’ll have done 3 solo projects. He’s going out with a bang.
So what’s the standard answer that you give to a question about a project that you’ve probably been asked a million times [laughs]?
The more it gets closer to next year, the more is being done on Detox. There’s more that I am privy to say about it, whereas beforehand when cats would ask me I would say, “I can’t tell you.”
Okay. In that case, what are you “privy” to say about it now?
I can say this: Dr. Dre is super buff [laughs]. You think I am buff, Dr. Dre is super buff. Since he became super buff, his beats became super buff and this dude’s vision for records became super buff [laughs]. The shit he is doing right now, it don’t make no fuckin’ sense! Where he is going sonically and where the music is progressing for him? The dude is the mad scientist. Understand me, the dude is something else! To see this nigga play the piano and start playing that classical shit like Bach & Beethoven, this nigga is on some other shit. He’s really putting down some amazing shit and it’s going to be worth the wait.
It seems like he’s been holding back in a sense on recent songs that he’s produced on other people’s albums. Kind of like saving the best for his own stuff.
[Laughs] Well, I am just happy that when it came to my own project that he poured it on real thick. So I am not even mad. I am happy to be on the same team to receive the magic [laughs].
What do you have to say about people accusing him of taking credit for other people’s work?
I’ve sat in the studio and watched him make beats. You can put all of that shit to rest. I can’t speak on things that I wasn’t around for but I know that people will always have something to say. Like some dude once got on the internet one time and said that I stole N*gger Noize. Be fuckin’ for real! That dude had some audacity. What he really wanted is for me to make him famous and give him some attention but what he really was going to get was ass-whoopins from all of my niggas out in Detroit! He’s just a young cat that don’t know better and I forgive him. My point though is that people will accuse you of all kinds of things like stealing their style, a title for a song, a beat, the way you wear your hat, your video concept, you name it.