It’s tough interviewing legendary figures that are behind the scenes in hip-hop. It’s even tougher when they’ve contributed large chunks of the actual music that has shaped the art form as we currently know it today. On the one hand you want to talk about all every classic record they produced, on the other hand you want to get to the nuts and bolts of why you’re speaking in the first place.
That’s a dilemma I faced when I got on the phone with Easy Mo Bee. The Brooklyn-bred producer has been in the game for roughly twenty years, and while there’s no doubt that the die-hard heads who’re reading this right now know who he is, there’s a whole younger generation who’re probably scratching their heads.
Mo got his start producing for Big Daddy Kane, and then produced 10 tracks on The Genius’ (before Wu-Tang and before he was The Gza) debut LP, Words From The Genius. He got in good with Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records camp, which lead to a working relationship with Diddy FKA Puff Daddy. When Puff split Uptown and formed Bad Boy, Mo produced the bulk of the label’s early material, most notably the first singles from both Craig Mack (“Flava In Ya Ear”) and the Notorious B.I.G. (“Party and Bullshit”). During this time, he also worked with 2Pac, even producing the original version of “Running,” which featured Pac and Biggie. He worked with Tupac on his 1995 LP, Me Against The World, before putting in more work with B.I.G. on both Ready to Die and Life After Death.
Since the late 90s, Mo Bee’s been floating a bit under the radar. But he did manage to work with Alicia Keys on her second LP The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003), producing the Gladys Knight/Isaac Hayes mash-up “If I Were Your Woman.” And in 2007, he was called upon by Wu-Tang Clan head honcho The Rza, producing “Take It Back,” the first single from 8 Diagrams.
Still, what’s irking Mo Bee right now is lack of involvement in Notorious, the Biggie biopic, due in theaters January 16th. Originally slated to score scenes from the soundtrack, Mo was paid but never got to work on the project. He was left hurt and confused, sad that he played an instrumental role in Biggie’s legacy but has been thus far excluded from being recognized for his contributions. We caught up with Mo Bee shortly before ’08 came to a close to talk to him about the whole ordeal.
Scratch: You weren’t included in the Notorious movie. I read you were scoring some scenes. What happened?
Easy Mo Bee: I was set to score music in the film. I did a contract and was paid. But somehow they moved on without me. It’s weird man. A lot of people expected me to be involved. The whole early beginnings with Biggie, I’m the first one that he ever went into a real studio with. It’s a lot of speculation, a lot of curiosity about that.
Scratch: How long ago did you execute that agreement?
Easy Mo Bee: That was months ago.
Scratch: What kind of affect has it had on you, not being included? To be left out, it’s got to be sad.
Easy Mo Bee: I guess I would say disappointment. Confused. Hurt. Especially constantly having to try to fight to be a part of Biggie’s legacy. There shouldn’t have to be a struggle for that right there. Definitely gonna always go down inevitably in the history of his legacy just because of the music that we did. The songs that we did, the first one was “Party and Bullshit” for the Who’s The Man soundtrack. Then you had in the early formation of Ready to Die, you had “Ready to Die” the title track, “Warning,” “Gimme The Loot,” “The What” featuring Method Man, “Friend of Mine” and “Machine Gun Funk.” That’s half the album. And on the second album too, on Life After Death- “Going Back to Cali” [and] “I Love the Dough.” A lot of people don’t know it or realize it because of the abstract textures, those are mine too.
Scratch: You used this phrase, “fight to be a part” of his legacy.
Easy Mo Bee: That’s how I feel. I think I just had enough of it. I’m coming out, I’m saying something about it. I feel I played an integral part of this mans life and his career and now we can say his legacy. Take for instance this film, how mysteriously I’m not a part of that. You can look at all kinds of biggie specials on TV, Vh1 Behind the Music, where am I? One of the most important dudes in the early formation of this dude’s musical career and a heavy contributor to the masterpiece Ready to Die, all these documentaries… nah, I had enough of it.
Scratch: Do you think not being included is intentional, like you’re suffering a blackball?
Easy Mo Bee: I’m beginning to think that. I really am. Unfortunately.
Scratch: What are some things that you think might have lead to that? Did you turn Puff down on a deal of some sort?
Easy Mo Bee: What you might have heard or read from another article, during that same time when Biggie first came to Uptown, it wasn’t even Bad Boy yet, Puff took me in the conference room right by the elevators and was like, “Yo Bee, I want to manage you.” At the time I was already managed by somebody. I never got back to him on it. I don’t know if there’s some animosity or something. I can’t get in that man’s mind. Is it because a long time ago, when “Flava in Ya Ear” Remix came out, I looked on the record and saw “Remix by Sean Puffy Combs, Chucky Thompson and Easy Mo Bee.” I took the record up in the office and I presented it to him and I said, “Yo, what’s this?” He didn’t know what to say. I told him, “You didn’t do it. Chucky sat there and watched. So I just want to know why the credits read like that.” I think it might have been that. Because ever since that, I haven’t really worked over there. I hope that to this day on an animosity level, I hope he’s not holding something like that against me. Because I think we all deserve to get proper credit for the things we do and things we done. And also too, there’s my whole speculation that I always had. Everybody know that I worked with Pac and B.I.G. separately and together. The record to prove it is “Runnin.” The remix we hear today, that’s out there, remixed by Eminem, there is an original, [and] I produced it. But that was during the cool time when Biggie and Pac was friends. Whatever caused them to have their beef and they went their separate ways, I always feel that put me in the middle. I worked with Bad Boy and B.I.G. but then I worked with Pac too. When they go they separate ways and have beef, am I supposed to part and go a separate way with a certain party? No. I’m a businessman and a professional. I’ll work with anybody, anybody that has a check and at the same time where it doesn’t compromise my moral or religious values. Did Puff not like that I worked with Pac?
Scratch: You also did stuff on Life After Death. How much influence did Puff have, or was Biggie picking those beats?
Easy Mo Bee: I came into Daddy House and I tracked the “Going Back to Cali” beat and “I Love the Dough” beat. I tracked them as instrumentals, untouched. B.I.G. came by the studio; he came in with Jay-Z. They start pacing back and forth in the studio writing, mumbling to themselves. They write it in their head. They did that for about an hour or so, and then B.I.G. came over to me. I’m sitting there like, “I’m gonna see B.I.G. and Jay get it on in the booth today.” B.I.G. came over to me and said, “Yo Mo, me and Jigga we gonna step out for a minute, we’ll be back.” That’s the last time I ever saw them. The recording sessions for them two songs, I wasn’t even there. When I left I told D-Dot, “Call me and let me know when the next session is.” Because I waited all night, till like 3 in the morning, and him and Jigga never came back like he said they would. They just recorded it without me. The vocoder they put on Going Back to Cali, I wasn’t there. I ain’t get to see Angela Winbush come in.
Scratch: I want to ask you about a big production urban legend. Did you sample a hairdryer for Craig Mack’s “Flava In Ya Ear”
Easy Mo Bee: I heard that before. That ain’t true. It’s a sample that was really way faster than that. I just slowed it down.
Scratch: What have you been occupying yourself with lately?
Easy Mo Bee: I got a couple artists that I’m working with. Doing it, this is like digital movement, stuff I’m doing over the internet. One situation is Honey, she’s from Brooklyn. That’s Honeycomb Enterprise. She’s a rapper and she sings a little bit. Then I got an association with Platinum Ice Records. Platinum Ice Records is actually me, one of the partners from Rappin is Fundamental, the group I used to be in, my man AB, and two partners, Tommy and Casey. The artist on there, Miss Quick, she’s a female soul R&B singer. And there’s a rapper, his name is J Dot. The third situation is Easy Mo Records, with a female R&B artist named Noelle. Platinum Ice and Noelle, Easy Mo Records. There’s things out there on iTunes. All three situations are digital situations. No exclusivity.