Action Bronson x Maffew Ragazino x Troy Ave x Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire: A Roundtable Discussion With NY’s New Breed
A new day is dawning over the Rotten Apple's hip-hop community, and rappers Action Bronson, Troy Ave, Maffew Ragazino and Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire are part of the transformation. Hailing from Brooklyn (T.A., Ragazino and eXquire) and Queens (Bronson) respectively—the four up-and-comers have all been putting in work as NYC's newest crop of rhyme spitters. From the swaggering street-smarts of Troy Ave, to the culinary brashness of Action to the lyrical word play of Ragazino and the grungy excitement of eXquire, these rappers are making quite the impression. And to top it all off, they’re all friends. Something that was unheard of in the earlier days of mean muggin’ landscape of city’s past. So XXL decided to get all four MCs on the line for a conference call to find out about New York’s new scene as well as its future. It’s time for a new, empire state of mind. —Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)
XXL: Whassup y'all. Let’s begin by talking about how you guys feel being labeled New York’s next generation?
Troy Ave: How does it feel? It feels dope, but, I don't really feel it yet. Like I [do] feel it when I go out and people come kick it with me [ like] "Yo, mad niggas talking about you." But It'll feel a lot better when I start getting some real money for it and get out the street. That's when it'll feel incredible.
Action Bronson: I'm just trying to be like Phil Collins man, honestly. That's really about it. I just wanna be a fucking English rock star. Rap is cool and all that other stuff man, [but] that shit ain’t where it needs to be. [But] people like us are setting it up right.
Maffew Ragazino: That's what it is. Not to piggyback off of [what] those guys are saying but, being deemed the new elite guys coming out of the city is dope, especially for myself. Personally, being mentioned amongst names who have humongous co-signs [and] machines behind them, being a lone ranger like myself is dope. That means the work is being put in and we making the city look good. That's always what it is, being recognized by the holy grail of publications, XXL, that ain’t no slouch shit. Ain’t nothing more incredible than that right now.
[Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire enters the conference call]
eXquire: Fuck y’all niggas talking about?
Ragazino: Shut up nigga.
eXqurie: [Laughs] Sorry I'm a little late y’all.
Action: [addressing Ragazino’s comment] I did this by myself. Action muthafuckin’ Bronson stands alone man.
eXquire: I used to do shows with Action Bronson when he had hair nigga.
T.A.: This shit so real I'm riding around the hood by myself selling my music
out my trunk, that's a fact. Still in the hood, I just came [before this phone call] from doing it. Still in the hood, to show niggas we in the hood. We did the whole Bricks in My Backpack [mixtape] thing, then Hof (my manager from freeonsmash.com) came along after he seen it buzzing and he came like, "Yo, OnSmash is on board to do whatever," as well as everybody else. Whether it be NahRight, shoutout to Eskay, or 2DopeBoyz, my nigga Meka, once you making your own wave niggas gonna come along and fuck with you. It ain’t like they just put us on a platform.
eXquire: I wasn't doing shit, I wrote niggas a letter that's how I got on Mishka. I wrote niggas a letter and asked them could they listen to my music. I was a security guard making $8 a fucking hour, I worked 12 hours a day from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. nigga. Straight sucka life, wasn't doing shit nigga. I had a girlfriend, fucking the same bitch every night to now fucking a different bitch every night. I did that shit me, myself, and Irene. [Laughs]
Ragazino: My time shall be soon.
eXquire: [Laughs] Your time is now. That's why you're on the phone man.
T.A.: I ain’t got nothing behind me but this street money you heard, that's a fact.
eXquire: I'm broke. [Laughs]
eXquire how do you feel about being one of the many new MC’s helping to put NY back on the map?
eXquire: I feel good, it's a lot of work to still be done. I don't ever smell myself 'cause I might be better off than those getting no attention but, if I was around a bunch of niggas that got more attention than me then I'd be nobody again right. If I was in a room with Fabolous, Jay-Z and whoever the fuck then who would I be again? I don't ever get to feeling myself. I still live in the same apartment, got the same problems so, it ain’t really like no big joyous, momentous occasion to me. I'm just rhyming and doing what I got to do to make it. Hopefully I do.
Now you all seem to have a great relationship with each other, how did that come about?
Action: Well I met Maffew a while ago, like at the beginning of the year when I started doing this shit. During that [time] we got a joint for the album. I met eXquire at this Fools Gold party, it was instant love. Same with Troy, everyone just respects each other and that's that man. As long as that love and respect is there, that's all we need. Kumbaya.
eXquire: Don't get it twisted son, we all laugh with each other but, we'd all bite each other's heads off.
So it still feels like competition.
eXquire: Hell yeah!
T.A.: Pause, pause I ain't biting none of y'all niggas heads off [Laughs]
Action: All I know is that I cook better than you muthafuckas. You aint seein' me in the kitchen, fuck that.
eXquire: My Ramen noodles game is ridiculous though.
T.A.: I cook a mean Penne a la Vodka man. [Laughs] That's about it though.
I think it's dope that y’all are cool with each other. Being from New York, we've all seen the movements come and go.
T.A.: A lot of hate. Everybody wanna be the man instead of gettin’ the money. I don't wanna be the man, I just wanna get the money. Real shit. That's how niggas down South winning, that's how Texas came out winning, that's how the whole Florida came out winning just all that camaraderie. You don't gotta be a best friend but, you can get money together. You could be cool, you could respect each other's crafts and shit you don't gotta talk everyday. I don't talk to [Action] Bronson everyday, I don't talk to eXquire everyday, or Ragazino. But, when I see them it's all love.
Now Action, during our conversation you mentioned NY isn't where it needs to be, do you all agree?
Action: It's a sob story man but, at the end of the day if you're hot, you're hot. You make ill shit and people are going to like it. There's no sob story over here, we're all grown men, muthafuckas have families to take care of and shit. At the end of the day make ill shit and people will fucking like it. That's what it is. If it's not hot, its not gonna pop off.
eXquire: That's NY's issue son--
T.A.: If you're not hot, forget about it.
Ragazino: Too much talking, no action.
T.A.: "Nobody aint fucking with us," just get hot. [Laughs]
Action: You gotta look inside yourself and wonder why muthafuckas ain't fucking with it.
eXquire, T.A., Ragazino: Exactly
T.A.: The dope shit about us is that everybody got their own lane and nobody trying to sound like [anyone]. You'll hear people trying to sound like somebody from somewhere else [but], everybody do their own thing.
Yeah, it's dope because you each offer a variety of styles. How would you all define your own personal style?
T.A.: We should define each others' styles [because] sometimes' niggas can't
define they're own styles. Maffew is a fucking lyricist, when I listen to his shit he's on some real lyrical shit. eXquire, he's just fucking gutter. He remind me of grunge rap. [At the XXL Kendrick Lamar show] I'm performing in muthafuckin’ coyote fur and these niggas throwing 40s. [Laughs] Bronson, his shit is just like genuine. He just talk about some shit that you'll be like, "Yo this is what he doing." Not saying that everybody else aint talking about shit that they're not doing but, he'll be talking about cooking some food then be talking about killing a bitch [Laughs].
Action: [Laughs] It goes from cooking food to killing a bitch in an instant.
T.A.: An instant. "Bitch you dropped the Merlot, bitch clean up!" [Laughs]
Action: Imagine if she dropped Merlot on the coyote man
From Troy, Xquire, and Ragazino you guys are holding down the Brooklyn home front and Action, you're holding it down for Flushing, Queens. Do you guys ever feel pressure of carrying your hood on your back?
eXquire: I don't think niggas is on it like that. We ain’t taking this shit for granted, at least I'm not. I think niggas just want to get their positions and their foot right in the business end of it before we get into reppin’ hoods. All that shit comes later.
T.A.: I feel more pressure from like my homies, my family, my peoples, you
know what I'm saying. I just want to do better so that everybody could be rich. It ain’t about one man having bread or whatever, if that's the case I could just stay in the streets and get money. I just want to have wealth. I feel more pressure from that than the whole "New York on my back."
Action: You gotta make sure that you right first. You can't help someone if you need to be helped yourself. You got to make sure you get in that position before you help anybody. Just being from where we are, we all automatically helping it.
T.A.: Yo I started rapping to get money, to keep it honest. A nigga from my hood ended up getting a deal and he was rapping on some bullshit, like the shit he was talking about I'm in the streets living it. I'm like, “Man, I could do this shit." I tried to get on the mixtapes and and this [DJ] told me [it was] $1,200 to get on a mixtape. I was like, "What?" I said, “Nigga, suck $1,200 worth of dick," and printed up my own mixtape and started selling my shit in the streets. It ain’t about, "Yo I gotta put New York back to the forefront." We doing aight. All these niggas on this phone could rap and do they thing so, it ain’t one man gotta carry the torch or whatever, that shit is gonna happen.
So it's pretty much music speaks much louder than your region.
T.A.: Success speaks louder than anything. I don't know about the rest of y’all but, I don't know where the fuck Nick Cannon is from. Niggas just know he's successful. He could come out tomorrow and say he reps Ohio, nobody gonna say "Oh he holding Ohio down."
Who or what inspired you guys to get into this rap shit?
T.A.: Rappers. Big Daddy Kane, Master P, Lil’ Flip. I know niggas laughing at me for Lil’ Flip.
How about you X?
eXquire: Of course all the old niggas and shit but, as far as niggas recently the niggas I'm on the phone with ’cause I knew Troy Ave before I was really known but, everybody in Brooklyn know Troy Ave. I met [him] two times before I ever even knew him. I met this nigga and he sold me a CD both times. I still got the CDs too. One was called, Major Without A Deal and one was called Rep It With My Heart, I know them shits front to back. I used to listen to that shit and hate. I used to watch his videos and be like, "Fuck this nigga" you know what I'm saying, like "Why I ain’t on?" But, I remember when he came, he had the video for "BK BK" and all that shit.
Ragazino: [Sings the song]
eXquire: Yup, and we were in the projects like, "Yo that nigga from Brooklyn" we were happy like, that shit inspired me. As silly as that may sound my nigga, that shit really inspired me. Maffew will tell you, I met Maffew before I was even rhyming like that. I met this nigga on the fucking train, listening to his music and we sitting on the same fucking train. I looked over and was like, "My nigga I'm listening to your album right now." I showed him the fucking music on my iPod, am I lying man?
Ragazino: I was like "Oh you lying." Nah, that shit was crazy cause we exchanged info but, it was mad shit going on at that time --
eXquire: And he fronted on me. [Laughs] All jokes aside, shit like that inspired me. Not even niggas that's famous, of course that's why I wanted to rap but, just watching niggas that I felt were regular niggas like me, and watching them dedicate themeselves and work hard that shit turned me out to want to dedicate myself and work hard. It still does. When I see "Merlot," Troy Ave's new video, I'm like, “Yo when I do a new video I gotta make
sure my shit hard.” That's my man but, we all gotta inspire each other. I admire all that inspire me.
T.A.: No hate. Real niggas get inspired by niggas doing shit. Fake niggas hate on shit.
Ragazino: I remember I went with some of my peoples to go to the studio and while we were waiting to do our session, muthafuckin’ Troy Ave [was] buying up all the studio time and shit. How real is that, me and this muthafucka went to school together.
T.A.: My nigga Rago.
eXquire: Y’all niggas went to school together?
Ragazino: Me and Troy went to South Shore High School.
eXquire: That's crazy.
T.A.: Hell yeah!
Ragazino: Now we 'bout to be famous. The same way Busta, Jay, and all them niggas used to see each other in high school, we gon’ have that same history.
You each are growing your buzz respectively, how do you keep that momentum going?
T.A.: I just got a jail call, that's my inspiration right there, stay the fuck out of
jail. Just to keep dropping new shit, just because I got a buzz, to other people it may seem like success but it aint the level of success that I want. I'm from the hood man, from the street and I really did street shit so, success might be $50,000 to a nigga [but] that aint shit to me. Just like success might be being on all the blogs, that aint shit to me. I need money, a lot of bitches--you know bitches cost. [Laughs] word to mother. I just spent a lot of bread for Christmas because I got a lot of bitches. The more success and money you get, all your bitches just go up. Like I used to drive the fucking Tahoe truck, then I bought the Volvo, then I bought the Benz, now I got that nice thing I be riding around in and its just all about that. I want the Maserati next so, you just keep going. Buzz? Fuck a buzz, I got to keep going till its not no word about a buzz. Niggas don't say Lil Wayne got a buzz, niggas don't say Rick Ross got a buzz, Jay-Z got a buzz. I got to keep going till there's not no word about a buzz.
eXquire: For me its about remaining honest and just staying true to myself regardless of the consequence. I don't really worry about nothing. At the end of the day, it's [not about] being the next Biggie-- you can't go and call fucking Cablevision and be like "Nah, I'm the next Biggie."
T.A.: [Laughs] That's a fact. You can't pay no bill with a buzz.
eXquire: Buzz don't pay no bills. For me it's about remaining honest to myself. I know me, I'm a crazy nigga, I know that about myself. I'm spotty, I'm wild, I'm just like that. At the end of the day my whole thing is just remaining honest and staying consistent and true to myself. [After that] everything will fall in line for me the way its supposed to be. Maybe I ain’t meant to be diamond, maybe I ain’t meant to be platinum but, I'ma be successful because I stayed true to me. That's just my main thing, staying consistent, and not letting nothing get to me and letting my head get swollen from anything. That's success, just doing me man. If I could leave this Earth and when I die, [people] be like "Yo he was a real nigga" then I'm good. Regardless of where I may end up.
T.A.: Real shit.