Ohio has never been a goldmine for rap talent, yet when hip-hop heads, whether intentionally or not, dig up material by the group MHz, from Columbus, OH, the way their lyrical gems shine is undeniable. Copywrite, Tage Future, the late Camu Tao, Jakki Da Motamouth and producer RJD2 met in high school and debuted as MHz in 1998. Camu, who passed away in 2008 from lung cancer, was the clique’s original producer and was later taught delivery, along with Copy, by The Intalec. Copy and Camu were close despite a public quarrel that happened during the rumors that Copy would sign with Roc-A-Fella, which would be squashed before Camu’s death. The group is now spearheaded by Copy and Tage. Together again once more after being diverted by solo work, the crew has just dropped MHz Legacy, an impressive album that they did not record together in the studio despite its apparent, cohesive energy. XXL got a hold of Copy and Tage to discuss roles, their indie dream, influence, the collaboration with Blu and the crew’s new LP. —Christopher Minaya (@CM_3)

XXLMag.com: What led you guys to forming a group rather than all going solo?
Copywrite: I was never solo, ever, until I put out a solo single on Rawkus in 2000, called “Tower of Babel.” That was only because Eastern Conference didn’t wanna sign MHz, and they didn’t understand RJ’s solo album, Dead Ringer. So, he only wanted to work with me, and we all, within the crew, always said, “Whoever gets a chance to get the rest of us in there, let’s do it.” So, that was why I was doing solo stuff, and then the rest of us were just doing solo stuff because we were like kids at a candy shop. We were from Columbus, happy as hell to be in New York, happy that people liked our music and just trying to cease every opportunity we could. When we debuted in ’98, it was all group stuff, so the solo stuff was just a side product of trying to get the crew more known and the crew in there. And, we just got hella sidetracked with everything.

What is the biggest difference about being in the group compared to flying solo and doing it on your own?
When you’re solo, you can say whatever you want. I can say whatever I want and not worry about if Tage is gonna be held responsible for what I’m saying. I don’t have to get approval from anybody when you do solo stuff, but at the same time, it could be lonely because it’s lil ole you. It’s like you are the only person in the factory, whereas when I’m working with Tage and RJ, I’m like, ‘These two dudes are geniuses.’

How would you describe everyone’s roles within the group?
Tage Future:
Camu is looking down on us, so of course he’s on the album posthumously, which is great. Glad we were able to showcase him for fans of his who hadn’t heard some of these verses that are on this album. We were kind of a tighter crew when we were younger ‘cause we were in the same city [although] we’re all good friends still. RJ did more than a third of the production on the album, and Jakki didn’t do as many songs as me and Copy did, but I was okay with that as long as he put his stuff on the album.

Copywrite: Jakki just never was in it like we are. Like, people always ask why Jakkisn’t doing music that much. He just doesn’t care that much; he never cared from the jump. I pulled him into it, basically. “Like, you’e too fucking dope to not be heard by the world, so get on this one song.” Then, he kinda got addicted to people giving him props and listening, so that’s kinda how that happened. He’s not as serious as the rest of us.

I think style-wise, I think Camu is the live wire, like unpredictable, crazy, his rhyme patterns to his delivery to what he’s gonna say is crazy. Sometimes he doesn’t rhyme. He leaves big spaces and gaps and things.

I think Tage is perfectly calculated, perfectly executed, a little left, not too left. Like, super, super intellectual but hood. And also, style-wise, can do anything, double time, metaphors, stories.

Tage: I feel like Copy can do anything lyrically, style-wise. One of those kind of guys that can rap his ass off, bite your head off for 100 bars if he feels like it, and that’s kinda why people are fans of his and respect his stuff. I mean just metaphors out the wazoo. Sometimes I go as far to say, it’s even too much sometimes for some people. To me, I love it.

Copywrite: I think that works against me because sometimes, people sometimes want the simple I don’t like doing. I do what I like to do. RJ is a genius, straight up. When we first met him, he wasn’t even making music. He was only DJing. He knew how to guitar, and he came from a musical background; his family used to travel, if memory serves correct, around in a van and used to rock out places, like on some hippie shit. So, I think that’s in RJ’s blood. There’s no limits on RJ. And also, dude, the unofficial MHz member, and this is really important, is our DJ Scratch Johnson. RJD2 doesn’t do the cuts on the album; Scratch Johnson does all the cuts. He’s really also the icing on the cake, the super glue at our shows and on the music because I feel like cuts are very important and the type of music that we make is not always necessarily boom bap. Like, we’re weird; we’re make some other shit, some pop sounding shit, some smooth shit, but I always like to have cuts just because I love the way they sound.