There are more than a handful of Rotten Apple-bred MCs who have claimed to bring New York back. But if you ask Heltah Skeltah, it never left. Notorious for their grimy Gotham lyrics and middle finger approach to the industry, the duo of Sean Price (aka Ruck) and Rock have been playing their position since the mid-90’s, formally kicking in the door on their critically acclaimed 1996 debut, Nocturnal. With great momentum, the disc’s follow-up, Magnum Force, hit shelves two years later, but the sophomore CD was the last fans heard from the unified front.
Several solo projects followed, but lovers of the hardcore have long been anticipating a proper Ruck and Rock reunion. And while the climate of hip-hop and the world for that matter changed since the Boot Camp Click representatives last bum rushed the mic together a decade ago, the bang out brothers are proving they’re still in rare form with their latest offering, D.I.R.T. (Da Incredible Rap Team).
XXLMag.com caught up with the duo to discuss everything including their new record, why trends are for suckas, run-ins with the boys in blue and their mixed feelings on America’s first black President.
XXL: So it’s been a minute since ya’ll two have come back with an official LP. How has your music changed from the days of Nocturnal on up to now with D.I.R.T. ?
Rock: It’s better. It’s a little bit upgraded from before. I think we changed a little bit, because honestly some of the beats begin to sound old [to you]. Our music has grown, our lyrics have grown because you can’t say the same things you did when you were a 17 year-old. Me and son get better with every go ‘round. But it’s still that Heltah Skeltah shit. The shit if you like to hear niggas spit bodies in every verse. If you like that kind of rap that make niggas say “Oh shit, did you hear what he just said?” then this is the album for you.
Sean Price: We’re pretty good at what we do. We don’t even really have a sound, we just spit. I usually don’t listen to my shit after I do it but I’ve been listening to this one. I like it. I’m not mad at it at all. It’s still punchline heavy, the beats is rockin’ and ain’t nothing sweet about it. I don’t really feel or care about what nobody do, we just hope that people catch on. We don’t pay no never mind to the other shit.
XXL: That’s interesting that you say that. With so many different trends and phases in rap, you guys were never tempted to follow any of the directions that the game’s gone in over the past few years?
Rock: We don’t never follow no certain style or trends because that shit will eventually go. We spit that reality. The game got niggas scared to be who they are. Fuck that. So what am I supposed to do ? I can’t get on the mic and rhyme about what [Jay-Z] rhyme about. So now I’m supposed to rhyme like Yung Joc? It’s called freedom of speech.
Sean: We not no Fu-Schnickens or no Das Efx.
XXL: A lot of labels who find success split up a la Death Row, Cash Money or even G-Unit but you guys have stayed with Duck Down. How have you managed to keep the ranks in the crew so tight?
Rock: Just like all of those other labels, these are business decisions. They find each other, artists find a label or the label finds the talent. Our shit just happens to be nepotism at its best. We all grew up together in some form. By high school, all of us knew each other. This is family. It just happens to be a business agreement over here too.
XXL: Rock, I know that earlier this year you caught a case for attempted murder for allegedly shooting an alleged pimp in a dispute over a prostitute. How is your legal situation now ? How has it effected you ?
Rock: It’s still pending. Filthy but not guilty you know ? It had both positive and negative effects. I mean, when it happened, nobody was even thinking about me. Next thing I know, I’m on MTV. But on the negative side, this is my life. It made a couple niggas nervous, a couple promoters were scared to book shows, saying they don’t know if I’m going to be here, so it’s a tricky situation. Nobody enjoys being in or associated with a situation like that. But they know my relationship with the law, it’s not the best one. My family wasn’t mad at me, just at the situation or the police or the dudes trying to talk slanderous about me.
XXL: A lot of rappers have been jumping on the Obama bandwagon. You guys have never really been highly political MCs but what are your thoughts on us having the first black president elected in the country’s history ?
Sean: As a black man it’s good to see that things on the outside are changing. [Politicians] talk about improvement but I never see that trickle down to where me and Rock live at. Is he just another president, well see? So it’s good on the black man side, congratulations and all that. I hope he does the right thing, but if he doesn’t, I ain’t surprised.
Rock: Well honestly, I’m a tad bit nervous. All of us minorities have a certain opinion on the President or government in general not understanding our plight. But niggas could be pulling the wool over our eyes. Give us the black man and wild out on us.-Anthony Roberts