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Dead Prez’ Stic.man Dismisses Ghostwriting for Nas: “That Didn’t Happen”

When news surfaced this week that Nas had reportedly used rebel conscious duo dead prez and fabled lyricist Jay Electronica as ghostwriters for his politically-charged 2008 album Untitled (a.k.a. Nigger), it was like the world had imploded. How could arguably hip-hop’s most celebrated lyricist be exposed as a mere puppet. Indeed, veteran journalist and Jay-Z scribe dream hampton and Frank William Miller Junior of the Rappers I Know blog co-signed the chatter, with Hampton even claiming to hear actual reference tracks. Since then, both Jay and stic.man of dead prez have vehemently refuted such talk. But there’s more to the story.

In an exclusive interview, VIBE caught up with stic.man to discuss his and partner M1’s role in the making of Untitled. It’s an illuminating interview that not only captures Nas as a fearless artist, but also underlines hip-hop’s at times muddied view of what constitutes as a producer. For stic, the message is clear. “We were the only three in the studio,” he says of dead prez’ experience with recording with Nas. “So it’s kind of like, well, who are all the people that are saying how the record was created? They wasn’t even there.” Read on.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)

VIBE: You dismissed all the talk about dead prez ghostwriting for Nas on your Facebook page. Having produced and contributed to the chorus for “Sly Fox,” what did you make of dream hampton’s comment that you did ghostwriting for Nas?

Stic Man: I don’t know. At the end of the day, I just feel like the people who are saying different things about the process of how that record was created I’m wondering, where were you at? To be totally honest, me and M1 went to Cali at the request of Nas. And we would be in the studio together working on stuff with nobody else there except Nas, who would come in and leave. I think people are making assumptions because of the content of the record. It’s gone from the collaboration that we did with Nas, which involved producing, idea exchanging and writing hooks, which is one thing, to us being ghostwriters.

As a producer can you talk about how you approached your collaboration with Nas?

To me, ghostwriting, as far as I know, is hiring somebody to write words for you to actually say. That didn’t happen. The way we got hired for Nas’ project wasn’t clear up front. M1 was in L.A. before I came to L.A. and he was like, “Nas wants to bring you out here to work on this project.” I remembered thinking we were just going to do a song together. But I later found out we were there to work in general: production, writing and ideas to help develop some of the songs on the album. So of course I’m thinking, “It’s called the Nigger album so that means you want dead prez type songs together, right?” But it was revealed to me that Nas wasn’t looking for that. He didn’t want us to rap. He wanted help with beats and concepts. And that surprised me because I’m thinking, “You want beats??? Of all the people to make beats for, you want us to make beats?” I was like, “Wow.”

So this wasn’t the typical guest spot?
No. To me we were there to make whatever contribution we wanted to make. So I was like, “Shit…I’m playing beats, I’m coming up with some song ideas…I’m going to do whatever.” And this is Nas, so I’m going to give my best and give my all. Me and M started making dead prez songs in some of those sessions because there wasn’t a clear direction of what Nas wanted [laughs]. But later on Nas would come in and say, “I know I want to do something that would get at FOX News.” And he would tell us, “Just play me some shit…what ya’ll got?” We are talking about way beyond “Sly Fox.” There was a moment he even expressed interest in signing dead prez to his company. My impression was we were forming a team. That’s how Nas presented it. But as far as the rumors, people are off-base. They are all based on assumptions because of the content that we are more [associated] with than what Nas does.

Can you talk about a specific instance of how a Nas/dead prez song came together?

Even some of the songs we gave input on, in terms of hooks and phrases, it was Nas’ vision in terms of knowing what he wanted. He’s the one that came up with the concept for FOX News. I would have said, “Fuck FOX News…let’s do a song about something else.” [laughs] But this was a Nas project, so that was the box we were put in terms of how he wanted us to input. He wrote his verses. We just brainstormed about different aspects of FOX News (“Sly Fox”). I work 24/7—so as soon as I knew that, I started writing hooks just to present an idea. Because that’s what a producer does.

Do you think the concept of producing in hip-hop equals—make a beat and give it to a rapper to rap over?
Yeah. But when I produce I compare it to producing a film…that was my role on Untitled. That’s what I took away from the tracks that I worked on. But Nas was the director. It was his vision on everything. My job was simple: can you help make this happen whether it was music or concepts. The only thing is they didn’t want [the standard] dead prez/Nas collaboration. They didn’t want to have me and M on the record with Nas. We were there as producers and collaborators.

So there was no period in time when Nas asked you to write a verse for him?
No. Take “We’re Not Alone.” That was a beat and hook that I already had for dead prez’ Information Age album. But because it was Nas we just felt, “Hey, man…let’s just give our best.” He happened to like “We’re Not Alone” and he wrote verses from his own point of view of what that song was about. My view of “We’re Not Alone” was about our connection to the environment and each other. But Nas’ take on the song was different—he was talking about aliens…he took it there. And that’s why I say I was more of a producer than a director because I would have taken that song to a different place.

In the end, what has this whole Nas “ghostwriting” talk taught you?
People don’t understand what [traditional] producing is. I’m kind of still like, “Wow.” I’m trying to understand what’s the big deal and where it’s coming from. It’s weird. I’m like, “Hmmm…what’s going on here?”

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DAWN Relishes In Self-love On New Song "Sauce"

DAWN is back with a sexy single off her forthcoming project, New Breed. "Sauce" is a sonic ode to pleasing all her hedonistic sexual desires after a long work week. Lyrically, the song is filled with suggestive lines and clever double-entendres that are far from coy when describing what she wants in the sack.

Just as much as “Sauce” is about sex, it’s also about basking in self-pleasure that comes after genuine self-love. In a statement published by Stereogum, the former Danity Kane member described the message behind the song:

“‘Sauce" is about women taking pride in their prowess, and about being raised to celebrate my skin,” DAWN said. “I lost focus of that when so many men degraded and disrespected my brown skin. ‘Sauce’ is about being bathed in your own beauty, being sexy for you. The new breed of women are unapologetic about sex and the way they choosing to express themselves.”

DAWN recently joined Aubrey O’Day and Shannon Bex of Danity Kane for the DK3 reunion tour across the U.S. In an interview with Billboard, the Louisiana native revealed she wants to give fans more of her authentic self on New Breed.

“This album is my relationship with New Orleans, me as a woman, and how being from New Orleans has created a person in me that acts and sees things a certain way. "'Jealousy'" is a prime example of that,” she said. “I just want to give you the girl from the 9th Ward that you guys only met once on [MTV's] Making The Band.”

Listen to "Sauce" below. New Breed drops on Jan, 25.

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LaVar Ball Is Requesting $3,500 From Anyone Planning On Recording Son During Tournament

As we know, LaVar Ball goes above and beyond in terms of making sure his sons become the superstar basketball players he wants them to be. His youngest son LaMelo is currently playing for SPIRE Institute in Ohio, and they have an upcoming tournament taking place in Kentucky. Mr. Ball is reportedly asking outlets to pay $3,500 at the door to videotape his son playing.

"All games are free to film except for the Spire Institute games,” an email reportedly sent by LaVar read. “To film either of the 2 Spire Institute games, you will have to present $3,500 at the gate, as per rules of the Big Baller Brand media credential… If you accept these conditions, you may present this email at the gate as proof of our approval where you will be given a media pass.”

While a few Internet folks are scoffing at the idea of having to pay that sort of money, others are pointing out the fanbase of LaMelo, stating that there are outlets who certainly would (and have) paid the fee for the chance to record LaMelo and SPIRE moments from the game. According to Forbes, this is one of many revenue streams for the Ball family.

"The Ball Sports Group in November entered into a partnership with FloSports Inc. to live stream five SPIRE games featuring LaMelo, beginning with one on Tuesday (Jan. 14) at Brush High School in Ohio," the site reports. "FloSports Inc. agreed to pay $5,000 per game, according to the contract which was signed by Foster."

Here's the email telling video outlets they must pay $3,500 to film LaMelo and @SpireBasketball this weekend in Kentucky. pic.twitter.com/XoiiorNxVr

— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) January 17, 2019

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Big Boi Purchases Studio Where OutKast First Began Their Career

Big Boi is going back to his roots with the recent purchase of the Atlanta recording studio — legendarily dubbed The Dungeon — where he and Andre 3000 recorded their classic albums at the beginning of their OutKast career, WSB-TV reports.

The veteran rapper, born Antwan Patton, announced the news via Instagram. The studio is located in the Lakewood Heights neighborhood. The studio once served as the hub for production crew Organized Noize, creating the beats for some of OutKast’s biggest hits.

 

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New day new Lot ... Just copped the Dungeon #WeDF #playingRealLifeMonopoly #RealEstate

A post shared by Big Boi (@bigboi) on Jan 16, 2019 at 10:54am PST

The Dungeon also served as a beacon of creativity for the group. In addition to OutKast recording their 1994 debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, they also recorded 1996’s ATLiens and 1998’s Aquemini at The Dungeon.

Deep in the Dungeon 👑 pic.twitter.com/IFLLONpSzp

— Big Boi (@BigBoi) January 16, 2019

In buying The Dungeon, Big Boi is securing an important piece of hip-hop history, especially considering how popular Atlanta has become in the entertainment industry. However, this wasn't always the case. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he admits that Atlanta wasn't always respected in creative circles like it is now.

“When we first started, it wasn’t cool to be from Atlanta,” he said. “Now Atlanta is the place to be with music, film, and television. To have people excited about the city and the culture and the lifestyle, I’m very proud of that. We’re the pioneers of it, and we’re still at the forefront of what’s happening. There’s plenty of people over the years, hundreds if not thousands like, ‘[1994 LP] Southernplayalistic … made me move to Atlanta.’ There’s no greater place in the world to be but A-Town.”

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