West Coast Hip-Hop legends Strong Arm Steady have been on a creative tear long before "blog rap" took over the scene.
Ever since their exceptional 2010 collaboration LP Stoney Jackson with underground extraordinaire Madlib, the crew (consisting of Krondon, Mithchy Slick, and Phil Da Agony) has kept busy with another album and free mixtape to satisfy fans until their latest offering with Statik Selektah, Stereo Type.
Ready to break the established clichés of West Coast rappers with their new album, Krondon and Mitchy sat down with VIBE to discuss the project, their place in hip-hop today, and their thoughts on the future of the mixtape game.
VIBE: How did you guys hook up with Statik Selektah?
Krondon: In 2010 we were going back and forth [from California] to New York to do shows for our new album, Stoney Jackson, with Madlib. I think it might have been [Talib] Kweli or another rapper who introduced us, but somehow we ended up connecting with Statik and he told us he was a huge fan of the Stoney Jackson record. Him being who he is on the East Coast, he’s kind of like the new [DJ] Premier, so we connected in Los Angeles and cut a record called “Back On Up,” which is on the album. [Planet Asia and I] actually put the record out right after we recorded it. While we were doing the record, Statik was playing a bunch of beats. We had done the first record so fast, we were like, 'Man, maybe we should do a project.’
At first it was gonna be a mixtape, but as we began developing records and recording in New York and LA, they started feeling really good to us, so it turned into an album for free, and then it became an album for commercial release. We went through a lot of stages in recording, but the music dictated how serious we took the record.
Do you feel like, with the Stoney Jackson record and now Stereotype, you prefer working with one producer on an album?
It is a lot less strenuous when you work with one producer versus working with say, twenty five producers. You know, you have to be in different modes, everything is going to be challenging, but when it comes to putting the record out, it’s a lot easier with one producer. Each person in the creative equation pushes each other. We the MC’s are pushed by the producer and challenged to make unique and groundbreaking records that maybe the producer hasn’t done before, especially with producers like Madlib and Statik who have worked with a lot of incredible artists already. The challenge becomes, 'How can we make the best record this producer has ever done?' That really becomes the fun part of it.
How do you guys feel about where Strong Arm Steady fits into the landscape of hip-hop today?
We sort of fell right in the middle of [two eras]. We were too young to be a part of the whole Death Row, Dr. Dre movement, but we’ve been around long enough that now we’re now a little too mature to be considered amongst the Kendrick Lamars and Casey Veggies and all that in terms of class. We fit in the middle. We have perspective on the early era of West Coast hip-hop emergence as well as the downtime in the West Coast where we weren’t on TV every day and not getting the same attention as far as multimedia goes. At the same time, we still maintained our brand and moved through the way we’re supposed to, but we haven’t peaked yet. So I think with all this attention coming back to the West Coast, we wanted to come outside and play [with younger artists] on Stereotype while showing our maturity.
It’s not like it is in ’03 or ’04 when we started and we were the only guys doing mixtapes and screaming “Independent Traditional Hip-Hop” or anything like that on our coast. The features we chose for this album were because they represent the vein that we’re trying to do hip-hop in and they’re putting on like we do. So we’re sort of the elder classmen who are in tune with what’s next, and I don’t think the West Coast has ever had a group like that.
Given that you mentioned how you guys were some of the first rappers doing mixtapes on the West Coast, what do you think the impact of Lord Finesse’s lawsuit against Mac Miller [using one of his beats on a mixtape] will be on that method of music distribution?
Well….I’m gonna be clear on that, man. I think that’s fuck shit, anyone trying to sue a nigga for a mixtape. We started this mixtape shit on the West Coast as artists and we were able to make a name and a career off of [mixtapes]. So I respect Lord Finesse, but he came up in a different era. Anything any nigga gotta say about a new nigga getting it is fuck shit. And then you’re gonna sue someone like Mac Miller or Curren$y for giving away the music, not selling it, and selling concert tickets? Like, even if they don’t do the [Lord Finesse song], they’re still gonna buy Mac Miller’s concert tickets!
On Stereotype, we have a Snoop [Dogg] sample scratched in on one song. So I sat down with Snoop and we were just kicking it, not even talking about the album, and he tells me, “Nephew, I really love the album.” I’m like, “Dog, you on the album!” He’s like, 'What you mean?' I tell him we got him scratched into the hook and shit, and he’s like, “Aw nephew, that’s the shit!” Now, Snoop could have said, “Talk to my lawyer,” but he thought it was dope!
Nas and Scarface dropped that [“Hip-Hop”] song and everybody knows Scarface has been in the game forever. But in his verse, he’s articulating his perspective on what’s going on in the game now without sounding old or bitter. He actually sounded relevant and right on point, so I take my hat off to Scarface for being an older craftsmen but still contributing to the craft and providing the younger generation with his perspective. Instead of suing him, you should be trying to get a beat for Mac Miller!
How did you guys hook up with Black Hippy?
Well our internal situations were similar. We actually signed to Warner at the same time as them, with the same A&R actually, but we both left around the same time as well. We knew Jay Rock from the streets and random music shit, and we were in the studio with them while Kendrick’s and Ab-Soul’s projects were coming out. Eventually, we were hanging out enough that I said, “Alright, let’s all get in the studio and put a track together.”
We’ve been working our asses off on this album, but it kind of happened last minute. We were on deadlines and Kendrick was on deadlines. Jay Rock got his verse in last minute and Kendrick couldn’t, but it was funny because Kendrick called me when he heard the song on the radio. And he was like, “Man, I need to get on that song!” I said, “I told you I had to get it in!” But shout outs to TDE and all of them over there, they’ve got a lot coming.