Lady Leshurr Lady Leshurr
VIBE/ Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Lady Leshurr Is Birmingham, UK's Dose Of Rap Girl Magic

From Brumtown to the across the Atlantic, Lady Leshurr is ready to make the world her own, one comical quip at a time.

Murphy's Law has a way of creeping its way into a situation at the last possible moment. In addition to soaking up the balmy heat and festivities of New Orleans’ French Quarter during Fourth of July weekend, Lady Leshurr, England’s quick-spitting banter rapper, spent three days taking in her first ever Essence Music Festival. For the most part, as both a visitor and a performer, things were going fine. In one of four Superlounges erected in each corner of the Mercedes Benz Superdome, Leshurr stepped out onto the stage and, juiced up from the warm welcome beyond the barricades, commanded it.

Leshurr seemed to outrun her own shadow up there. As her petite frame propelled from one side of the stage to the other with each song, her teased, waist-length tresses played catch-up behind her. Snarky punch lines launched from her lips like a rain of gunshots. Audience members, most of whom hail from the Americas, recited every word with their own posh renditions of her accent. “I hold it down like a Snapchat/Go over your head like a snapback/Uploaded a pic, double tap that/And your flow's so old, granddad,” Leshurr rapped to the crowd before they screamed the memeable “Queen’s Speech 4” refrain, “Brush your teeth, brush your teeth,” back to her.

By her own admission, the debut performance was great (London singer Estelle intro’d her set and she rubbed shoulders with Queen Latifah, an idol, in the backstage area). However, during her moments of reflection the morning after, she’s visibly “shattered.” Her eyes are heavy and all that prior vibrant energy is subdued. NOLA was one blip on a non-stop international tour that, by the first of October, would have taken her from Spain’s Sónar Festival to Oslo’s Oya Festival to New York’s inaugural Roots Picnic at Bryant Park. Her manager, Natasha, says that for a whole year, they hadn't really taken a break, so New Orleans was a pleasant escape amongst pleasant people. That is, up until roughly three hours before her 4 p.m. flight to Vienna.

There's a high probability that one of two very important travel documents have been swiped from her room at one of the crowded Canal Street hotels while she was down the street doing this very interview. Panic has set in on all sides, and as I wait in the hallway outside her hotel room, chest heavy with guilt, she triple checks the room and waits on security personnel to arrive while simultaneously throwing the rest of her suitcase together. If she hadn't ignored her checkout time to make room for this hour-long chat, she'd be good to go.

After about 15 minutes of muffles behind the door, a shockingly relaxed Leshurr emerges from the room with a new camouflage dress on (our cafe-side interview found her in a simple red bodycon dress to match the replacement red lipstick she purchased at Walgreens, and crisp white Air Force 1s), two armfuls of luggage and a question: "Do you still want to go outside to snap some photos?" It’s a baffling inquiry given the circumstances. Are you sure? I ask. The predicament would leave the average person less-than-enthused to do a mini shoot without being 100% certain they'd be able to board their plane set to leave in two hours. "Everything will turn out okay," she says after reading my face, newly calm. "I have faith." Hours later, she uploaded an Instagram video from her hotel room in Vienna, chocked full of jokes as if the prior 24 hours hadn't even happened.

Lightening the mood is Melesha O'Garro's expertise.

The Birmingham native has always had a way with words. Since age six, the outspoken, charismatic youth frequently penned rhymes and poetry, but it was the birth of 2015's comical “Queen’s Speech” rap saga that turned heads, pushing her lyrical gifts and unique comedic style beyond the confines of her home. In the comical six-part series, her heavy puns and jabs are so facetious you have to laugh at them—“Don't think you're buff cause you're wearing contour/‘Cause I’ll wipe your brows off/I’ll snatch your wig and your nails off,” she quips. The biggest viral splash came from “Queen’s Speech 4,” the source of the latter quote, garnering over 34 million views on YouTube and enabling her to finally cover her mother’s mortgage, a major feat. The various three plus minutes of jest and clowning her haters are all memorialized in simple, one-take videos that show off the core of her whimsical personality.

She credits her roast-session sense of humor to cracking jokes with her older sister (she's confident that, by now, she’s surpassed her big sis' bantering ways), but insists she was the stranger sibling growing up. “I'm a bit more on the weird, crazy side than them,” she says. “I post weird stuff, sometimes things I know I shouldn't post. That's just me, that's just the person I am. Some people can't handle too much of me because I'm expressive.”

Expressive is one way to put it, but a more fitting adjective for the Lady Leshurr we see onstage is explosive. Her stature is dialed down and unassuming in the wings, but the mic in her hand acts like a match to a wick. “The crowd needs energy,” she says in between sips of her noon cocktail. “You just can't stand there and perform your song. You have to be energetic, you know? You have to be interactive, connect with the crowd and win them over.” Her youthful appeal and energy—her age falls anywhere between 19 and 30, and she likes that no one can pin it down—never dials down from 100 percent. Rare moments of rest come when she runs back to the selecta, or DJ to non-Caribbeans, to ask them to run the track back. Her high-octane performance ritual is a nod to her upbringing.

Although she’s never been to the country of her roots, the child of Kittitian parentage grew up in Brumtown’s (a local nickname for Birmingham) tight knit Caribbean community. Aside from saltfish, dumplings, plantain and stew chicken, her favorite dishes, she was spoon-fed a musical palate that spanned from Jamaica’s Vybez Kartel to New York’s Big L to London’s Shystie as a youth. From the Americas, she was an eager student of hip-hop heavyweights like Missy Elliot, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, Ice Cube, Big Pun, Biggie, Tupac and Lil Wayne, with Eminem being at the top of the totem pole. “[Eminem’s] ‘Hi, My Name Is’ is the reason I do what I do now,” she says. “I started to take on music seriously when I heard him. His flow, his technique, how he puts certain syllables in certain places. I rapped like him, I wanted to be him.” On her side of the Atlantic Ocean, however, she pulls from the homegrown British sounds of garage and it’s evolved genre grime, where big names like Wiley, Skepta, Stormzy and Kano now reign supreme. Musically, Leshurr occupies the gray space in between the internationally divided but similar genres.

“I wouldn't say I'm a grime artist, and I wouldn't say I'm a hip-hop artist. I need to create my own category because I’m influenced by so many genres of music that I can't really place myself in one or the other. I'm me,” she says, jokingly labeling her lane “Shurr style.”

For a long time, the rap game excluded her hometown from the narrative. Birmingham is England’s second largest city (coming second to London, which has them beat by six million people) but it feels like a tiny bubble to Leshurr, especially for the lady rap scene. London is home to Shystie and Lioness, some of Leshurr’s favorite femcees, but in her own streets, she’s alone in the game for now. “There's no female rappers coming from Birmingham, and just being able to take the Birmingham sound global, like to America, to Europe, and they can understand it… It's like the UK is so powerful, we have got control and a lot of the Americans are looking at us now, seeing what we're doing, seeing what sounds we bring to the table.”

She pauses to relish in her accomplishments, which seem to have come tumbling in these past couple years. Prime billing at worldwide music festivals. Nearly selling out New York's Gramercy Theater, her first headlining show in the state. Working with Deputy, Bangladesh and Scott Storch, the producers responsible for Rihanna's "BBHMM," Lil Wayne's "A Milli" and Chris Brown's "Run It!," respectively. Meeting Kool Herc, the Bronx DJ widely known as hip-hop's founding father, and attending his 61st birthday party. Getting personal phone calls from Busta Rhymes and having Timbaland say he sees a little bit of Missy in her.

'Pinch me' moments for sure, but the journey to get to this point was one of great difficulty given the proverbial barriers propped up within the UK. Take her accent. Although it's considered endearing in the U.S., on her home turf, just an hour and a half train ride away in London, her sing-songy lilt was the stuff of joke. “At a point, I stopped using my accent,” she says. “But now, I'm not gonna lose my integrity for anybody. I'm gonna try and make it through just being myself, and I feel like being yourself will set you free.”

Add her tongue on top of just trying to make her way through as the underdog without much support. In the U.S., a cosign can make the world of a difference in boosting status and creating access to opportunities for a rising artist. Even though Leshurr has appeared in some of the same "one-to-watch" lists as her regional counterparts, she says that same camaraderie is hard to come by.

"I see it as tiers in the grime scene," she explains. A hint of weary frustration blankets her voice. "If you're at the bottom, you don't really get shown any love. If you're at the middle, you don't get that much love, but if you meet these people at the top at places, they'll say hi to you, but they won't support your music or tweet your music. I've been grinding, grinding, grinding to get into that top tier, where people will finally accept me. But for now, I'm just like you know what? I don't care if you don't accept me or support me. I'm just gonna be doing me."

Lady Leshurr is going for the gold on her own, with the intention of reaching back to pull other bubbling lady artists up when she gets to that level. "I just wanna change the game, man," she says, excited. "I wanna be the first British female rapper to be globally known and work with different types of people. American artists, producers, and yeah, just wanna take over."

With her next batch of material, she hopes to get some more traction going. For starters, she's got "Where Are You Now?," her festive single featuring Wiley, arguably one of the godfathers of grime, already under her belt. Quietly, she's been clocking in 15 plus hour days at the studio, readying the next Leshurr wave.

“My album is not gonna be like ‘Queen's Speech.’ [That] was just to grab enough attention to drop my album to show people what I actually can do… It's a new project of my dark side, you know, the old side.” A good indication of that old sound is her 2011 cover of “Look At Me Now,” where she goes toe-to-toe with Chris Brown, Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne’s original verses. Or better yet “Unleshed,” her freestyle to Desiigner’s sinister breakout hit, “Panda,” and a response to people who call her Queen's Speech raps sellout material. In it, Leshurr is ruthless, going for the jugular with machete sharp raps defending her lyrical abilities.

Wagwan, what's happening?
When I was in the lab, just cookin' up
You were somewhere in the club daggering
Man, I'm savaging
Done with the talk, through, javelin
Yeah, I might have big teeth on a rabbit ting
But I'm still here, and I'm still managing
And you're where? Look - panicking!
I don't care! Shrug, ain't havin' it
My whole year's booked, travelling
You're nowhere, stuck, stammering
You see me, shook, MC Hammering

"There's just a few things I had to clarify for people who were really putting me down for something that has helped me and my family," she says. Though not the intentional subject matter for her songs, Internet trolls and their bristling opinions about her talent and looks provide ample ammunition for clap back season. Confrontation IRL isn't really her steez. She's a firm believer in karma and turning negative moments into positive ones. Instead, channeling her frustration into catchy and commotion-worthy songs leads to more revenue and, more importantly, more respect.

"You know what? I don't care if you think I look ugly," she says. "I don't care if you don't like what I'm wearing. I'm gonna make sure my music does the talking."

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Brent Faiyaz Channels International Life Into New Musical Gems

Finishing up his summer in Europe, Brent Faiyaz (born Christopher Brent Wood) indulges in spiked mimosas and enticing conversations with his team after handling business for the day. Jet-setting overseas to add more memories to his life’s reel, the singer-songwriter and producer just celebrated his 24th birthday days before. “I think anytime you go places internationally you get a different perspective," he says. "I felt like creatively, it would bring out some more shit.” Many doors have opened for the DMV crooner since he first appeared in front of the public’s eye with his single “Natural Release” in 2014. Pulling pages out what seems to be his journal entries, Faiyaz shares his autobiography through the dynamics of string ballads, haloed hymns, and tinder timbre.

The Columbia, Maryland R&B talent has shared his soothing vocals with fans ever since. Studiously making beats from the age of 12 or 13, it wasn’t until after graduating high school and moving to Charlotte with his parents that he began to invest in music full time. His rhythmic resonance and gut-punching lyrics turned into his first five-track EP speaking to women, relationships, and sex in A.M. Paradox in 2016 with his hit single “Poison.” He formed a group called Sonder with fellow musicians Dpat and Atu, and released a group EP with them called Into before dropping another solo project, Sonder Son. The 12-track project delved into his childhood: he brought his fans right into his living room in “Home,” gave them a seat at the table in his classrooms in “Gang Over Luv,” and walked his newfound Los Angeles streets with them in “L.A.” He then unleashed his tightly knit six-track EP Lost with standouts “Trust,” and “Around Me.”

“I come from a very real place. I think that I can give a lot of people around me a lot of real perspectives. I’ve been seeing a lot of people in certain avenues gravitate towards a nigga,” the LA-based artist said.

The indie artist truly received a standing ovation after organically co-creating the 2018 Grammy-nominated single “Crew” with GoldLink and Shy Glizzy. “I’m going to be real; I didn’t go into music with the intention of being an independent artist, especially not this long. But then [I] hopped onto “Crew” and we fucked around a got a hit record without even being signed to a label. After that I started getting paid so I was like ‘Fuck it, we really don’t need that,’” he said.

His first 2019 summer single “Fuck the World (Summer in London)” opened a perspective of contronyms that approached both the literal and lustful world. What he calls “the woes and the woes.” “Meaning the shit that I hate. [What] is terrible about life right now that’s fucked up, fuck the world on the negative end, middle finger fuck the world,” he says. “And then it’s ‘Fuck the World’ where it’s like the girls and the money and the clothes and the bullshit.”

He later dropped his latest track a month later. “Rehab (Winter In Paris)” mirrors a story when the singer was balancing his personal time while being addicted to a person who is addicted to a substance. With “Rehab” already penned, Faiyaz went to producing the track alongside No ID, known for his work with rap greats like Jay-Z, Common and Kanye West. “He’s an OG. I soaked up a lot of game from him. I locked in with him for a whole week and cut a bunch of ideas.” Observing the producer's process, Faiyaz implemented some of No ID’s ways into his own. “I would take certain shit he said and put that in my own shit. Real talk, he is one of those niggas that will put you on game.”

With a uniqueness to his voice that is charming yet elusive, the singer has raised eyebrows by not resembling the stereotypical genetic makeup of a rhythm and blues artist. “I don’t really know how a sound is supposed to look. If somebody tells me how a sound is supposed to look, I will understand,” Faiyaz chuckled. “I don’t really connect the two. I can’t change how I look; I can’t change how I sound. I’m going to keep doing me.”

During what one could consider a hiatus, the vocalist used that time to focus on his craft, give back to his mom, jump on A$AP Ferg’s album Floor Seats, and walk in Pyer Moss’s New York Fashion Week Show. As he has geared up for a musical return that will unveil a different side, Faiyaz is under renovation. “I [don’t] want to give people the same sh*t that I’ve been giving them this whole time. I’m not about to put out a new project and it sounds the exact same as the last project. I want to keep reinventing myself as this sh*t goes on.”

“Right now, I am probably the most creative that I’ve ever been.”

Brent has successfully left his fans longing for more all while remaining authentic, not purposefully trying to create any kind of enigma around himself. “It’s not a goal of mine to be on the tip of everybody’s tongue all the time.”

With the year wrapping up, the 24-year-old is “pushing boundaries” as he prepares to release more original melodies. While he experiments with the production elements of his music and strengthening his vocals, the artist is effortlessly surprising himself in the studio. “I’m kind of saying whatever the fuck I want to say on the track and somehow it’s coming out pretty good. I know how to put it in a way where it comes off ill.”

Plotting his next moves, the creative has become enthralled with art all across the board in his performances as it translates to visual art. “I’m really learning how a bunch of different avenues go aside from just music. I’m on my young renaissance man shit.”

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Robert Glasper performs at Blue Note in New York City on Saturday, Oct. 5 during his residency.
Dennis Manuel

Robert Glasper Talks 'F**k Yo Feelings,' Yasiin Bey, And Lessons From Herbie Hancock

“This second set, bro...”

Robert Glasper mischievously smiled and widened his eyes as I began to turn off my recorder. We’re wrapping up an interview and sitting side by side near a soundboard at the historic Blue Note jazz club in New York City, where fans are packed downstairs for the third night of Glasper’s month-long residency. He had a previous residency at the Blue Note last year, and it was a hot ticket: acts such as Black Star, Anderson .Paak, and Lupe Fiasco shared the stage with him, while celebrities like Chris Rock, Cornel West, and Chadwick Boseman came to enjoy from the audience.

For the start of this year’s residency, the elusive, expressive Yasiin Bey joined him for four nights in a row, with two shows each night. On Saturday (Oct. 5), the Brooklyn renaissance man wore a black hoodie over a solid black tee, wielded his signature bright red retro mic, and went through fan favorites like “The Boogie Man Song,” “Auditorium” and “Casa Bey,” all over fresh, warmly layered interpretations by Glasper and his bandmates Derrick Hodge, Chris Dave and DJ Jahi Sundance. Bey is visibly impressed by the band, and at one point, dances and spins in place for 10 minutes while vibing to the music. But with Glasper’s reputation and relationships, other artists are prone to just show up, and that’s why Glasper was so excited about the second show: god-level MC Black Thought and soul singer Bilal both made surprise appearances, leaving members of the crowd hyperventilating. Thought exhibited his otherworldly lyricism and breath control, dropping sets of what felt like 100 bars at a time and trading rhymes with Yasiin while the band played a rendition of Madvillain’s “Meat Grinder.” Bilal performed his timeless 2001 single “Reminisce,” with Yasiin spitting his verse from the song. Main Source cofounder Large Professor slipped in the door before the show as well, though he didn’t take the stage. For much of the show, Glasper goofily joked with the crowd, often prompting Yasiin to flash his own bashful, dimpled smile. It's just one night of more to come: the rest of the residency will continue through the beginning of November with Esperanza Spaulding, Luke James for a Stevie Wonder tribute, T3 of Slum Village for a J Dilla tribute, and the original Robert Glasper Experiment, with more guests sure to pop up unannounced.

That same spirit of spontaneity fueled Glasper’s new mixtape, Fuck Yo Feelings. Glasper arranged a two-day jam session with his band and invited artists and friends to keep company. What began as a good time with loved ones resulted with a mixtape that features YBN Cordae, Buddy, Rapsody, Herbie Hancock, Bey, Muhsinah, and many more. It's the latest release in a career that has seen Glasper simultaneously carry on jazz traditions and buck its conventions. As a pianist, bandleader and musical director, he’s excelled with making jazz records for the iconic Blue Note Records that traditionalists can love; but he’s also earned two Grammys for his two Black Radio albums, which employ raps and vocals by Yasiin Bey, Lalah Hathaway, Erykah Badu, and more. He's consistently lent his talents to other musicians’ albums as well – most notably Kendrick Lamar, for his game-shifting 2014 LP To Pimp A Butterfly. Regardless of the platform, Glasper is always making jazz cool, and adding victories to his own belt in the process.

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VIBE: You’re back at Blue Note for your second residency here. How was last year, and what made you come back?

Robert Glasper: Last year was amazing, with all the guests that came through and the turnout. We sold out 44 of 48 shows. The shows, the people, the guests following out that were in New York. It was just epic shit. And Blue Note was like, “we definitely need to do this next year.” So I was like “cool, let’s do it.” I get to be home for a month, and I’m never home for five weeks straight. Gives me a chance to be home, hang out with my son every week, and the money ain’t bad either. (laughs) It’s kind of like being on tour without being on tour.

Last time we spoke, you were telling me that even though you live in NYC, that most of the creative energy is in LA because that’s where everyone records.

There’s more recording in LA, because everybody moved there. But the creative energy is still here. From my experience, you learn how to play and create in New York, you get all those skills. And then you move to LA to make money with it. (laughs) New York’s the place to go when you’re dope, kind of for most things. The competition is so crazy. In other places, it’s slim pickings of who’s dope, so it’s not something that’s going to push you hardcore. But when you’re here, everywhere you go, muhfuckas is dope. I went to college here, there’s motherfuckas here who made me scared to play piano. They would call my name, and I’d sit at the drums because I’d rather sound bad on drums than piano in front of these people. It really chiseled my shit to be dope as fuck.

LA is the place with a plethora of everything you need to make money. All the studios, the producers, all the film stuff. The opportunities are in LA. Before you used to go back and forth from New York to LA for opportunities because there were still a lot of artists and producers here. But it’s so expensive, everybody moved out to LA. It’s more stuff out here, you get more bang for your buck, get some sun. You might die in an earthquake, but you know, see where it takes you. (laughs)

You’re very intentional with how you label records: you have ArtScience, you have Black Radio and Black Radio 2. Why is Fuck Yo Feelings a separate mixtape, and not in one of those other series?

All my records start off one way, and end up another way. I always say the universe produces half of my albums. Originally this was going to be a jam session with my band, and we were just recording it. I ended up being like, let’s bring people to listen to the recording. Not even artists, just tastemakers, friends, VIPs, to come hang out and put a bar in there, 15-20 pairs of headphones so they can be in the room and be part of the experience. It wasn’t an album; it was just, let’s record for two days and see how it sounds. But people started falling through the studio, and it just became a thing. As we kept recording –- we were only there for two days – I had the amazing singer/songwriter SiR come through. He’s a super-fast writer so I said, “while we’re jamming, if you have any ideas, just write them down, and maybe they can become songs later.” One of the songs he had an idea for was “Fuck Yo Feelings.” That was early on the first day. The singer YEBBA was there, and I’m like, “let her sing that.” And that became the premise of the whole shit.

I feel like that’s a great mantra for today’s times. Where I’m coming from, Fuck Yo Feelings can mean so many different things. This is a time where everybody’s fighting for their place in the world to be who they are, whether you’re LGBTQ, whether it’s the females trying to get equal pay and equal rights, black people trying to finally be equal and end racism. Fuck Yo Feelings is a mantra saying, respect someone else’s plight that’s not your own. Take your feelings out of it and just respect their fight, understand what it is, and hell, fight with them. Just because it’s not your fight, it doesn’t mean they don’t need allies. Or, just get out of the way. Also, feelings can lie to you. You get in your feelings about shit, and a lot of times, feelings aren’t going to be what propels you to the next chapter. Sometimes, feelings can hold you back and give you a false sense of reality. Sometimes, you have to say “fuck how I feel, I need to do this.” There’s so many angles you can go with it, and this is something that so many people feel like saying, or say in their mind.

I hear that, but I can’t front: the cover has you sitting on a throne with your shirt off. So I thought the title was basically saying “fuck these artists who think they’re fucking with me.”

(laughs) Well, humbly speaking, I don’t think there are dudes that think they’re fucking with me. (laughs louder) In a real way, I don’t know the pianist that’s arguably in the top five in the jazz world, top five in the hip-hop world, is arguably the top five in the R&B world in terms of playing my instrument. I don’t know that guy, but me. You can have your little argument, “I’m better than you at jazz,” sure. If you want. But all three? And I have the Grammys to back each one of them up? I put in work out here. So it wasn’t that. It’s more like fuck your feelings when it comes to all the stuff I just said. But also, people have an issue with how I’m crossing all these genres and doing what I do. The average jazz musician doesn’t look the way I look, talk the way I talk, or behave the way I behave. Most jazz musicians are in a box, and it’s a box that people are comfortable with and a box you’ve seen before. People got some shit to say about my shit all the time, and I’m definitely saying fuck your feelings to that, too. Because I’ve done the box you like, I’ve proven I can do that. So what’s next? I don’t need nobody’s approval because Herbie [Hancock] loves me, so I’m good. (laughs) If Herbie’s down with me, I don’t need one other person’s approval in the world.

This mixtape also has a lot of younger rappers: Denzel Curry, YBN Cordae, Buddy. Was that intentional?

Yeah. I want to keep my hand in the young pot, too. I’m not getting any younger. I wanted this record to be something that everybody could love and like, even different generations. I felt it was important to have younger cats on here, and to put younger cats in situations they wouldn’t normally be in. YBN Cordae wouldn’t normally be on a track with Herbie Hancock, but he’s so dope. YBN Cordae is an old soul, and he respects the people that came before him, while he’s making new things. Terrace Martin hooked me and YBN up, and Terrace is all about that too. People always associate me with the backpack rappers, and they should, because that’s what I’m dwelling in all the time. But I like other shit, too.

I want to talk about your relationship with Yasiin. I know he was on the first Black Radio, and you’ve worked together before that too, right?

Live, all the time. He basically used my band for his live stuff all the time. I was his music director, starting in like 2006. Whenever he would do things with a live band, they’d be with my band. At first, something happened and his piano player couldn’t make one gig. So when I sub a gig… (laughs) I went in there and put the kitchen sink in that mufucka.

He got fired on his day off?

It was a wrap. So I start putting my guys in his band. “I see what you’re going for. You need Chris Dave. You need Derrick Hodge.” But I’d met him before because he was around Bilal all the time. He was on Bilal’s first record, and I was his music director the whole time till 2007. But I started doing my own thing and we’ve been rocking ever since. We just have one of those connections on stage, bro – he’s like another instrument. He’s always comfortable to the fact that we play shit that most rappers would not rap over because they don’t know how. It’s not your average four-bar chopped beat. He’s like, “I love that. It’s got 32 different changes in it, and I want to rap over the whole thing.” Or odd time signature shit that’s not normal, he’s comfortable. He can go anywhere on stage, and that’s why every show we do is different. It allows me to still be free and not have to worry about, “we have to stay in this box for him.”

He seems to be a recluse in a lot of ways, especially in the past five or six years. But he’s on your new project, he’s doing four nights in a row with you with two shows per night, and he did shows at the Kennedy Center with you recently. How do you get a hold of him?

I got the bat phone, my nigga! (laughs) Nah, we have mutual respect for each other. He tells me this: this is the highest musical level, I feel, you can possibly be in when it comes to rocking with a band. It may be different, but it ain’t gon get no higher. He has such a love for jazz and hip-hop and other styles of music, he knows we can go anywhere. We’ve done pop songs together. I’ve done Cyndi Lauper stuff with him, Neil Young, Radiohead, we go all over the place because he loves to sing too. He has a respect for what I do and respect for the musicians I have. And he wants to do it. It’s different when it’s a gig, versus, I want to do this, because it feeds him musically, too. Some gigs are just gigs; you show up and you might not, because you’ve done this before. We could do the same songs and it’s going to be totally different than last night. I think he feeds off that.

But he’s definitely a recluse, and sometimes he won’t show up every now and then. (laughs) He’s never stood me up. It was never, “where’s Mos?” He can do that to people, but he’s never done that to me. He may say, “ah, missed a flight,” so we have time to figure shit out. It’s a respect thing.

What are the chances you two make an EP, or a full album together?

We’ve been talking about that for years, and that’s super, super duper most likely going to happen. Without a doubt. He wants to, every time we talk, we talk about that. All these shows are being recorded every night, by the way. So it could be shit from here, live.

He was supposed to drop multiple albums over the past few years. He had the album with Mannie Fresh, and another solo, Negus In Natural Person. He dropped the album with Ferrari Sheppard, December 99th, on TIDAL in 2016, but that wasn’t my speed.

I give him shit about that every day. (laughs) I give him shit about most of his last albums. “Fuck that shit, my nigga. What are you doing?” That’s my dude, I can talk to him like that. “What are you doing, my nigga? You know what this is. This is magic! That shit ain’t magic!” He looks at me like (curls top lip and lowers voice to impersonate Yasiin Bey) “nah you right, you’re right, Ron.”

His second album, The Ecstatic, isn’t on streaming services anymore.

He doesn’t believe in all that. We talked about that last night. He’s not necessarily in with the new times like that. “I gotta give away my shit for free, just because you’ve got Wifi? Nigga, you know how hard I worked on this shit?” He ain’t even got a cell phone, so getting him to understand the new wave of shit is different. (Ed. note: at the beginning of both shows, Yasiin Bey requests the crowd not use their cell phones during his performance, and promises to “enforce” if they don’t get with the program. ) He’s very much anti all that shit. It’s going to be something to gradually get him to understand. We put “Treal” (from Fuck Yo Feelings) out and he’s like, “yo. I just saw a video of our song on YouTube. For free?!” Mos, no one buys music. That’s just not what it is. These days and times we’re in, you get out there and try to be popular as you can, and when you do shows, that’s where your money comes from. But no one is baking cake off of music anymore. That's not the day we’re in. Unless somebody like Taylor Swift. I know at one point she was like “fuck that shit” and it wasn’t on Spotify. But her fan base is millions of people; she puts something out, and they’re going to pay for it. Our people, eh, not so much. (laughs)

You also said a few years ago that you’d be forming a group with Terrace Martin and James Fauntleroy. Is that still going on?

We did like one or two songs, fucked around. This is one of those things where everybody got busy. I’ve had a few groups go like that. But it takes a while for a group to do a project. You do a song this month and then three months later you do another song, so the album may not come out until two years later sometimes. But that’s still something we want to do. It was hard to do August Greene, with Common [and Karriem Riggins]. That was hard to get done, and it’s not easy to tour that. We all have our respective things happening, so we’re looking in the cracks like “let’s try to do a show here.” Rashid’s doing movies and that kind of stuff.

What would you say you’ve learned from Herbie Hancock, and do you think you’ve given him any gems that he didn’t have before?

There’s two things I learned from Herbie. You’re a person first, and you’re a musician second. No matter what you do in life, you have to remember that you’re a human being first, and what you do is secondary. What you do can always be taken away from you, and then you’re just left with who you are. I was at his house doing chants with him, because he’s a Buddhist, and I just listened to him talk and that’s one of the things he said. The music is connected to the person and the music, person and spirit are all combined. If you’re a good person, that can come through the music. You just have to remember you’re a person first, and a musician second. That’s how he is, how his aura is.

Second thing I’m learning from Herbie, you can learn from anybody. No matter how high or great you think you are, you can learn from younger people. That’s something that he saw firsthand with Miles (Davis). Miles got Herbie in his band when he was like 19. And Miles trusted the young cats. When he saw these young people got something to say. All Miles’ bands were young people. Miles was a genius at knowing what situation to be a part of because he saw they were on the brink of something. Miles put himself in that and could help grow that, but he knew he could learn from young people. That’s why Herbie hangs out with us. Where we be at, he be pulling up. So I learned that from him: always have your ears open. Even if you’re a master at something, masters can learn.

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Lil Kim performs onstage at the BET Hip Hop Awards 2019 at Cobb Energy Center on October 5, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

BET Hip Hop Awards 2019: Watch All The Performances Here

There were awards given out at the 2019 BET Hip Hop Awards, but this year's festivities were all about the performances. Hip-hop's biggest up and comers (Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby, YBN Cordae, Saweetie), more established names, (Rick Ross, Rapsody, Chance The Rapper), and flat out legends (Lil Kim) all blessed the stage.

This year also saw the return of the annual Cyphers and connected with URL to integrate battles into the show for the first time. Look below for the performances from the 2019 BET Hip Hop Awards.

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Lil Kim Performs Medley Of Hits with Junior M.A.F.I.A., O.T. Genasis, and Musiq Soulchild Megan Thee Stallion And DaBaby Perform "Hot Girl Summer" And "Cash Shit" Lil Duval, TOM. G, And KaMillion Team Up For City Boys Performance YBN Cordae And Anderson .Paak Perform "RPN" Saweetie Performs "My Type" With Lil Jon And Petey Pablo Rapsody Performs "Nina" And "Serena" Chance The Rapper Performs "Sun Come Down" DaBaby Performs "Intro" And "Baby Sitter" With Offset Rick Ross and T-Pain Perform Medley Lil Baby and DaBaby Perform "Baby" T-TOP Vs. Shotgun Suge – Battle DNA vs. Geechi Gotti – Battle
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