Ever since Eve broke on the scene in 1999 she’s had a knack for making stardom look easy. Grammy Award winner. Check. Starring in blockbuster films. Check. Achieving elite status as a fashion icon. Check. The “blonde bombshell” is a triple threat entertainer in the truest sense of the term. And one of the reasons you can’t take your eyes off of her is your ears.
In an era when success in hip-hop is built on the portentous hype of saving the genre from imminent gloom and doom or testosterone driven beef, Eve remains a bankable star who grabs your attention with her consummate talent for crafting infectious hits. She’s proof positive that hip-hop doesn’t need to be saved or resurrected; it just needs a woman’s touch every now and then.
Hence, following a successful four-year takeover of the Hollywood and fashion scene, Eve is set to drop Here I Am, a more mature and adventurous album, one she calls her best effort to date. “This is the album I’ve always wanted to make,” she says. “In the past my albums have had a heavy male influence. Not this time. This one represents the woman I am today.” And there’s no doubt that the woman who brought us hits like “What Ya Want,” and “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” is supremely confident that a mass variety of music lovers not just the hip-hop faithful will appreciate were she’s coming from this time around. “I didn’t just cater to a rap audience with this album,” she says. “I can go to the Pop Top 40 with this because it’s far more universal than anything I’ve done. You’re going to pay attention to me because it’s different.”
Having people take notice of her talents has never been a problem for Eve Jihan Jeffers. During the late 90’s and early millennium the Philadelphia-bred MC was a key component in the seminal rap squad the Ruff Ryders. As the only female in the crew that consisted of rappers DMX, The Lox and Drag-on, Eve stood out as the sexy, no-nonsense street savvy, ride-or-die chick that could hold her own amongst the boys. Anchored by chart-topping singles like the vivacious “Gotta Man” and the anti-domestic abuse classic “Love Is Blind” Eve’s 1999 debut album Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryder’s First Lady was a double platinum success. Her 2001 sophomore release Scorpion went platinum, while garnering her crossover appeal with the Grammy Award winning mega-hit “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” featuring Gwen Stefani.
It didn’t take long for Hollywood to come calling on Eve for her unique and commercially viable persona. The self-professed “pitbull in a skirt” was maturing into a glamorous avant-garde fashion goddess. In 2002 she made her silver screen debut in Vin Diesel’s action blockbuster XXX, but it was her role later that year as the feisty female barber Terri, in Ice Cube’s Barbershop that would win her the most attention for future employment. UPN network quickly tapped Eve to produce and star in a self-titled sitcom about a fashion designer. With her newfound celebrity in Tinsel town it seemed appropriate that Eve would release her aptly titled third album Eve-Olution in the summer of 2002. Focused more on her growth as a person through love and relationships the album’s memorable features include the alluring collaboration with Alicia Keys “Gangsta Love” and the Grammy nominated, Dr. Dre produced single “Satisfaction”.
After the release of Eve-Olution Eve turned her focus to her thespian responsibilities and her clothing line Fetish. “Acting and getting into fashion were some things I enjoyed doing and I wanted to really pursue.” In 2004 she went on to take roles in three different films, Barbershop 2: Back In Business, The Woodsman, and The Cookout. “Acting is a whole different mindset from rapping,” she says. “I feel fortunate to have gotten advice from people like [Queen] Latifah and [Ice] Cube. Especially Latifah, she’s like a big sister to me. I aspire to emulate her career.”
On her way to attaining that royal status Here I Am is another milestone to be added to the impressive body of work Eve has amassed over the course of her illustrious career. A top flight MC in any arena male or female Eve’s unmistakable, aggressive style is ideal on the instantly appealing rap-rock hybrid “Aint Nothin Changed”. Not an official single the mixtape smash, was the most sought after record on Eve’s myspace page. Over a chopped & screwed sample of the White Stripes’ classic “Seven Nation Army” the blond bombshell fittingly raps: “Had to get back in the game/to deal with some unfinished business/What you thought I gave it up?/Like I was done and over.
Far from finished Here I Am truly speaks to the growth of an artist that has transcended the ride or die chick niche hip-hop carved out for her. One listen to the hyper-chants and hard-charging bounce of the Swizz Beatz produced lead single “TK” and you’ll see why all eyes will be on Eve this summer. “I wanted this coming out party to be an event,” she says. “This record symbolizes that.” I didn’t want to do what people expected me to do.” Surely no one will expect to hear Eve singing as she effectively does on the 80’s pop-influenced “Tk” produced by Pharrell. Or anticipate her reggae-tinged aura on the breezy second single “Give It To You” featuring Sean Paul. Along with collaborations with T.I., Robin Thicke and Timbaland Here I Am is chock full of pleasant surprises.
As you can see Eve’s time away from hip-hop was not spent idle. Now considered a genuine star in the worlds of music, fashion and film, she’s currently preparing to launch “a more womanly” line of Fetish and starting her own film production company. More importantly, she looks forward to getting knee deep in the rigors of the rap game. “I can’t wait to get back on tour,” she says. “I miss performing. I need it. It’s an indescribable hunger that I have.” Clearly, after 8 years in the business Eve hasn’t lost her zest for the music, which is all the reason why this album will absolutely spice things up—for the better. Just as the old saying goes, hip-hop is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be anything without a woman in it.
RRI encourages a consistent high-level of quality in all areas and adherence to the Joaquin Dean Jr. aka Lil Waah and Quino is a rapper/actor born September 2, 2002 in New York City.He is of Trinidadian and African American heritage.
It should come as no surprise that Lil Waah has been performing since he was two years old, having been born into a musical family that includes his father (Waah Dean) and his uncle (Dee Dean) and his aunt (Chivon Dean) co-founders of the Ruff Ryders enterprise of companies.He got the rapping bug at an early age and grew up in the Powerhouse Studio with his dad listening to the music of DMX, Jadakiss, Eve, and like so many other children influenced by the music and artistry of Michael Jackson.
Spending all that time in the studio with his father and uncle, he had the opportunity to also learn how to produce and write music from his cousin Swizz Beatz in the studio.He wrote his own song and won the New York State WOW contest.He performed and wowed the crowd at Harlem’s Juneteenth Celebration in 2010.
Lil Waah enjoys playing keyboards and spending time in the vocal booth where he has been working on his first single to be released and distributed by Ruff Ryders Indy, Inc.He has achieved numerous trophies for track, basketball and karate and maintains high grades at the Cherry Lane Elementary School.“I just want people to feel me and appreciate my work,” he says. “I take this seriously. I don’t do this because people get paid from it. I really want to change the way music is done.”
Hugo Da Boss is the next big thing. WOW! That’s a huge statement, but this talented rapper, who plays piano and sings, too, is ready to live up to it.
The music that the Son of Harlem is doing now, for his debut cd, is called “swag music,” but if you think that Hugo Da Boss is just about rap music, you would be seriously mistaken. His “swag music” is about “flava and musical instrumentation, plus some strong musical intelligence.”
The piano prodigy, who as a young teenager, attended the world renowned Juilliard School of Music in New York City, and is a trained classical pianist who learned music theory and took vocal classes. As a kid, he listened to his brother deejaying and the music of P.Diddy and Mase, both from his native Harlem, spilled out of the room, mixing with the sounds of Scott Joplin, whose life story and musical innovative pierced Hugo’s ears when he saw the classic movie starring Billy Dee Williams and got him interested in piano. The gifted musician has played the legendary Carnegie Hall, where he wowed (there’s that word again) the crowd. All of these intricate sounds and beats mixed in Hugo and he wants to blend hip-hop with the various styles of music (jazz, blues, pop, et al.) that he has learned to appreciate while studying at the prestigious music school.
“I like to call what I do ‘swag music.’ It’s the music that Ludacris, Akon and Fabolous (among others) do, artists who brought the party back to music. I want to do that kind of music so that hip-hop can be the music of the people again and not just about bling-bling and places that people might never see. I want to get back to music that you hear in the club and music that just makes you want to dance. I make music for the ladies, like any young artist does, but I consider everybody. I think about the party. I feel like only a certain amount of people can keep talking about violence and be relevant. The party and fun, that’s always relevant!”
With supportive parents who believed in his talents but also enforced the importance of school, Hugo Montrose became Hugo Da Boss and he’s daring to change the face and style of hip-hop. Hugo Da Boss began writing lyrics and producing his own songs at 14, mixing his classical music background with his Harlem hip hop swag. Soon, he found himself doing shows and gaining fans. Of client biography course, time in the studio soon followed and now, Hugo is developing his “WOW” style and his sound, which has already been heard by almost 1.6 million listeners on MySpace. (“WOW” is Hugo’s signature swag call and you will soon hear it on tracks and in clubs everywhere. “WOW” means this track is so sick or “WOW” this so good, I can’t believe I did it!)
“I can talk about harmony and melody because I sing and know music well.” Hugo shows his “WOW” style on songs like his first track, “LOVE POTION,” where Hugo flipped his flow and added Caribbean influences, which he gets from his father, to show his dexterity as an artist. “My pop’s is from Trinidad and I thought that would make the track more interesting.” He shifts and changes his style track-by-track and as an artist, Hugo hopes to show off all of his skills. Whether on joints like the club-banger “GOT ‘EM BOTH” or the smoothed out “WHEN I GET HOME,” Hugo Da Boss shows that he can be what’s hot in music and take that up a notch or ten. “I want to be seen like a male Alicia Keys, because she flips styles from classical to pop to R&B and plays piano,” which she does with the same skill.
Hugo Da Boss is in the studio, working on songs and tracks, while doing shows because he loves to perform. “I am working hard to really gather up my sound and concepts so that ‘swag music’ takes hip-hop to another level.”
Hugo Da Boss says, with his own skillful intelligence that “what makes hip-hop interesting is the metaphors and the ability to paint pictures with words, so that you can tell the story at so many levels. My mom’s advice that I keep up my education definitely pays off, because knowing how to write and read lots of different things, so that you have a larger range of information, helps so I can take it to the next level.” The 18-year old adds that “having my parents’ support definitely made it easier to dream.”
Dark Man X, considered the next coming of the slain Tupac Shakur, though asking him to comment on this will bring this angry response "I say they don't know what the f**k they are talking about. And when people say I'm the second Pac, I'm not, I'm the first X." That being said, Earl Simmons (DMX's real name) has said of Tupac "I think Tupac was a strong-minded black man, and that's what America fears." Nevertheless, perhaps the real reason people flock to DMX is because the man is real, not a multi-million dollar record executive dressed like a rapper (listening Puffy?) to which he apparently agrees, saying "I'm real. And people like real. I haven't crossed them yet, I haven't been on no fake sh*t yet, no bullsh*t yet. And they feel my sh*t. People like a real person."
Following the deaths of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., DMX took over as the reigning, undisputed king of hardcore rap. He was that rare commodity: a commercial powerhouse with artistic and street credibility to spare. His rapid ascent to stardom was actually almost a decade in the making, which gave him a chance to develop the theatrical image that made him one of rap's most distinctive personalities during his heyday.
The early days for Simmons were definitely real, born December 18, 1970 in Baltimore Maryland's projects, his family quickly moved to Yonkers with his aunt, with a father that left him at a young age. He also endured an abusive mother, which in combination helped mold Simmons into a life of crime, where he spent years in group homes and jail. This also led to other troubled behavior such as alcoholism and drug abuse, a response to his manic depressed state.
Everything about DMX was unremittingly intense, from his muscular, tattooed physique to his gruff, barking delivery, which made a perfect match for his trademark lyrical obsession with dogs. Plus, there was substance behind the style; much of his work was tied together by a fascination with the split between the sacred and the profane. He could move from spiritual anguish one minute to a narrative about the sins of the streets the next, yet keep it all part of the same complex character; sort of like a hip-hop Johnny Cash. The results were compelling enough to make DMX the first artist ever to have his first four albums enter the charts at number one.
What turned Simmons life around was rap music. In the early days, he paid his dues rapping on street corners, playing in clubs, and distributing his tapes, all this created a buzz for the performer in the New York scene. 1997 brought Ruff Ryders Entertainment and DMX was quickly signed by the Def Jam label. He appeared as a guest of sorts for the likes of LL Cool J, Lox, and Mase before releasing his first single in 1998, Get at Me Dog. With this created the artists affection for 'the dog'. In fact, DMX has a tattoo dedicated to his late pit bull and what he calls his "best friend" which says "One Love Boomer". His first full album, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, went on to sell 3.6 million copies (and counting). DMX also branched out into film, starring in Belly, a Hype Williams directed crime saga which featured other rappers such as T-Boz and Method Man.
The cash strapped Def Jam was eager to get another album out and released the 2nd DMX project of the year with Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. The controversial cover had DMX in a bathtub full of blood. The album featured a duet called Omen with Marilyn Manson (though the two never met, it was the product of a recording studio match). This and the success of Jay-Z helped catapult Def Jam from near extinction in the prior year to the leader of the hip-hop pack, as the downward spiraling Bad Boy Records (Puff Daddy) and the post Tupac Death Row Records were headed in the opposite direction. His latest album, ...And Then There Was X, has been his biggest hit to date, helped in large part by an all-out media blitz in support of its release. He appeared on Saturday Night Live, Queen Latifah, as well as an episode of Moesha.
Like Tupac, DMX's post celebrity life has been touched with crimes and alleged misdeeds. In 1998, charges that he raped a 29 year old stripper were dropped after DNA tests on the woman came back negative for a match. In addition, he's been arrested in connection with stabbings in Denver and Yonkers, though both of those cases were dropped.
He also was arrested on drug paraphernalia and weapons charges in addition to spending two nights in a Trinidad jail for swearing during a concert, were the practice is legally forbidden. Ironically, his hit What's My Name has drawn protests from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which they say glamorizes dog fighting, though Def Jam countered that there is no actually dog fighting in the video and that no dogs were harmed. DMX's own love for dogs supports the theory that were was no bad intent with the video, as he has said "I used to take dogs on the street. I used to bring them home if I could, make somewhere for them to sleep right outside the building. I had dogs as long as I could remember, you know."
Toward the end of 1999, DMX released his third album, ...And Then There Was X, which became his third straight to debut at number one. It also produced his biggest hit single since "Get at Me Dog" with "Party Up (Up in Here)," which became his first Top Ten hit on the R&B charts. The follow-ups "What You Want" and "What's My Name?" were also quite popular, and their success helped make ...And Then There Was X the rapper's best-selling album to date, moving over five million copies. During its run, DMX returned to the big screen with a major supporting role in the Jet Li action flick Romeo Must Die. In the meantime, he was indicted by a Westchester County, NY, grand jury on weapons and drug charges in June of 2000.
He also entangled himself in a lengthy legal battle with police in Cheektowaga, NY (near Buffalo), when he was arrested in March for driving without a license and possession of marijuana. He missed one court date, and when he turned himself in that May, police discovered more marijuana in a pack of cigarettes the rapper had brought with him. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 days in jail, and his appeal to have the sentence reduced was finally denied in early 2001. After stalling for several weeks, he turned himself in and was charged with contempt of court. He was further charged with assault when, upon learning he would not be let out early for good behavior, allegedly threw a food tray at a group of prison officers. He later bargained the charges down to reckless assault and paid a fine, and accused guards of roughing him up and causing a minor leg injury.
Not long after DMX's release from jail, his latest movie, the Steven Seagal action film Exit Wounds, opened at number one in the box office. DMX also contributed the hit single "No Sunshine" to the soundtrack, and signed a multipicture deal with Warner Bros. in the wake of Exit Wounds' success. With his legal problems finally resolved, he returned to the studio and completed his fourth album, the more introspective The Great Depression.
It was released in the fall of 2001 and became his fourth straight album to debut at number one. Although it went platinum quickly, it didn't have the same shelf life as his previous releases. In late 2002, DMX published his memoirs as E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX, and also recorded several tracks with Audioslave (i.e., the former Rage Against the Machine). One of their collaborations, "Here I Come," was featured on the soundtrack of DMX's next film, a reunion with Jet Li called Cradle 2 the Grave. The film opened at number one upon its release in March 2003, and its DMX-heavy soundtrack debuted in the Top Ten.
When producers decided to get behind the mic, it's not always a happy ending. But if your name is Swizz Beatz, it's a whole different story. The man who has successfully produced for newcomers, moderate artists up to high caliber ones is now demanding the solo attention that he actually need not to worry about. His second solo album 'One Man Band Man' hit the street on August 21, 2007 and was immediately grabbed 45,000 copies in the first week. It ranked at #7 in Billboard Hot 100 and #1 in Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Next thing Swizzy sees is a hope coming true. He once said, "I want to be remembered as the producer who changed the dynamic ofwhile inspiring artists to be creative and innovative. I won't stop until history is made."
Swizzy, aka Kasseem Dean in birth, was always about art even in his youth. Born on August 30, 1978 in South Bronx, New York, his father Terrence Dean found Terrence Dean
From then on, various artists like DMX and Eve have been closely associated to him. DMX's 'Stop, Drop' gained popularity and consequently helped people to acknowledge Swizz's name. In 2002, the producer who is of Jamaica and Puerto Rico descent, thought it was the right time to have an album featuring his affiliates. 'Presents G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories' was released in December that year and debuted at #50 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart after counted selling 59,000 copies in the first week. At that point it was unquestionable that his credibility as a producer proved to be a huge factor behind his fame. He was soon tapped to produce albums from like Mariah Carey, Madonna, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Usher, Chamillionaire, Ja Rule, Busta Rhymes, Beyonce Knowles, Chris Brown, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Ludacris, Mary J. Blige and many more.
He married R&B singer Mashonda who gave birth to his son in January 2007. He also has an older son named Nasir. After several years credited as producer only, Swizz was back as a solo artist with his album 'One Man Band Man' that was released under his own label Full Surface Records in 2007. Drag-On, Lil Wayne, R. Kelly, Jadakiss, Ciara and even Coldplay's Chris Martin were more than happy lending their talents for Swizz. First single off the album was 'It's Me B*#@hes' (2006) that invited controversy for its profanity. While people started thinking that the should not be performed on stage, Swizz mildly answered that they took the song "too seriously". In August 2007, Vibe Magazine named the record 'The Best Rap Album of 2007' while Spin Magazine also boasted the album with three and a half out of four
“I’ve got a whole new sound plus I’m a little older now,” says Drag. “I’ve got my label Hood Environment so I’m repping something totally different. I can’t come back to the game the same way I left it.”
A native of the Bronx, Drag-On (born Mel Jason Smalls) overcame a tumultuous adolescence – including abandonment, drug-selling and homelessness – to find his way into the music industry as a teenage emcee.
In 2000 amid Ruff Ryders’ musical dominance in the streets, Drag-On released his first album, Opposite of H20. Boosted by the hit singles “Spit These Bars” (featuring Swizz Beatz) and “Niggaz Die 4 Me” (featuring DMX), Opposite of H2O was a success, selling 700,000 copies and peaking at #5 on the Billboard Top 200 and #2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts.
As the young spitfire of the Ruff Ryders family, Drag-On became a mainstay on various double-R projects including numerous DMX albums, the Ruff Ryders compilation Ryde or Die Vol.1(1999), the L.O.X’s We Are the Streets (2000), Eve’s Let There Be Eve (1999) as well as D J Clue’s The Professional (1998).
On the heels of a successful musical debut, Drag-On launched a film career, landing co-starring roles alongside DMX and Steven Segal in Exit Wounds (2001) and Cradle 2 The Grave (2003) featuring DMX and Jet-li. He also appeared in The Hustle (2003), starring Ed Lover and Doctor Dre.
Drag’s second album, Hell and Back, came in 2004 and debuted at #5 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums charts. The CD depicted a darker side of the artist and included personal tales of his mother’s battle with throat cancer, street fights and losing unborn twins to a miscarriage. However, the momentum Hell and Back had built was halted suddenly in 2004, when Drag was slapped with a million dollar lawsuit stemming from a road rage incident that left an NYC motorist severely injured. The experience proved to be a personal and professional setback for the rapper for a few years.
But not for long. After four years away from music, Drag-On took his career into his own hands and established Hood Environment Records in 2008.
“I’m just trying to create another umbrella in this game and show the industry how it’s supposed to be done,” says Smalls of his label. “I don’t want to sound typical, but we really go hard for our artists.”
Drag credits the creation of Hood Environment and the birth of his daughter, Melody, with re-igniting his fire to get back in the studio. In 2008, he recorded the song “School of Hard Knocks,” produced by the Individualz and featuring Swizz Beatz. The track signaled his return to the industry and was followed up by several appearances on mixtapes from DJ Big Mike and DJ White Owl and a feature alongside Maino, Talib Kweli, Styles P, Cassidy and Swizz Beatz on the Sean Bell tribute song “Stand Up.”
A 2009 appearance on Jadakiss’ “Who’s Real” remix featuring Swizz, DMX, The Lox and Eve confirmed that Drag-On could still spit flames. Now the TK will make his official comeback with the spring 2010 release of his third album My Life, My Legacy, My Melody on Ruff Ryders Indy/Hood Environment/Fontana. My Life will be Drag’s last album on Ruff Ryders, but the artist insists there’s no beef.
“Ruff Ryders is family,” he says. “They were the first label to give me a chance in this game and I will forever love them for that. But, still, it’s my time to branch out and do my own thing.”
With production by the likes of Swizz Beatz, Neo da matrixx, Dame Grease, and Avery Chambliss of the Individualz, My Life, My Legacy, My Melody takes the listener through Drag-On’s musical history while displaying a new sound and a more mature artist. The album ranges from party-starting tracks like “Dance Over Here, Don’t Glance Over Here” to gritty, street anthems like “Metal Spray” to a touching tribute to DMX entitled “Thank You.”
“I’m giving people a breakdown of my life and what I’ve accomplished over the years,” says Drag. “This album will show how my lyrical content has stepped up from when I first got with the R to now.”
Guests on My Life include Cassidy, AR AB and Hood Environment artists Eyez B and Terror Da Dude. Drag-On maintains that his new sound and role as a CEO will shed new light on his abilities as an artist and businessman. And he plans on being around for a long time -- no matter what life throws at him.
“You can’t get rid of me. I live and breathe Hip-Hop, so it’s impossible for me to do anything else,” he explains. “Drag is back. Drag is here.”
Harlem’s own Mook is best described as the rapper nobody – not even today’s hottest emcees – wants to step into the ring with. That’s because the young street phenom has annihilated nearly every opponent who’s battled him over the last six years, most notably, the 2004 clash against Harlem’s beloved Jae Millz in which an 18-year-old Mook decisively defeated Millz in front of hundreds of spectators.
“At the time, it didn’t really hit me as to how important winning that battle was,” recalls Mook. “I was just a kid, and it was my first battle ever. I was just trying to prove to myself that I could do it. But then about a month or two later, everything changed.”
Born John Ancrum, Mook grew up on 116th and Manhattan with his mom and great-grandmother until the age of 12, when he went to live with his great aunt, Yvonne. “My aunt had the biggest influence on me to do positive things,” says Mook, who was given the nickname “Mookie” as a toddler. “I was in the streets a lot when I lived with my mom, but my aunt stayed on me and taught me how to do the right thing.”
Like most 80’s babies, Mook loved hip-hop. He listened to Wu-Tang Clan – Ghostface Killah was his favorite – and watched his cousins, Demont and T-Rex, recite rap lyrics around the house. It wasn’t long before Mook decided to try his hand at rhyming. His skills were impressive for a 12-year-old, but Mook’s main interest at the time was basketball. A high-scoring point guard at Fordham Prep, Mook had his eyes set on the NBA. Yet, it was his basketball coach who, after hearing Mook rhyme one day at a tournament, introduced the multi-talented teen to a friend named “Pop.” Pop eventually became Mook’s mentor, father figure and manager. “He gave me the confidence to rap,” says Mook. “I didn’t think I was that good at first, but he used to always tell me, ‘You can be one of the best. You just gotta work at it.’”
Mook began to take rap seriously, writing and rehearsing his lyrics whenever he wasn’t on a basketball court. Pop grew so sure of Mook’s skills that in 2004, he made a $5,000 bet with Jae Millz’ manager that the unknown emcee would beat Millz in a battle. Mook had never battled anyone before, but he knew he had a shot at winning. And win he did. Over 500 Harlemites flooded the State Building that day and witnessed Millz’ verbal beat-down by a rookie armed with verses like:
“We don’t wanna hear no mess about how you spray steel/ ‘cause in the pen I heard they told you to stay still/20 niggas in the shower waiting to j millz…”
Murda Mook’s name was on the lips of everyone who attended the legendary battle that night. But it wasn’t until the video of it was released on SMACK DVD a month later that Mook’s reputation really took off. He spent the next four years building his rep by challenging numerous well-known battle rappers such as Loaded Lux, Party Arty, and Serius Jones. Various record labels began approaching Mook, but no deals materialized. “I wasn’t really recording anything at the time and didn’t have a lot of material out there other than the battles,” he says. “That was a mistake. I was young and didn’t know the business. I was just out there battling.”
Part of the reason why Mook wasn’t recording music was because he had received a basketball scholarship and had enrolled as a full-time marketing student at Elms College in Massachusetts – a fact few people knew. To keep his name relevant on the streets, Mook battled rappers on the weekends. Then in 2008, he left college and moved to Atlanta with Pop, who had a studio in his home. Mook began recording songs and working on an independent album project. However, the momentum slowed when Pop was suddenly arrested and went to prison.
Picking things back up, Mook returned to NY and connected with longtime friend, Ronald “Blackface” Ashley, who became Mook’s manager. Not long afterward in 2009, Mook ran into Ruff Ryders CEO, Joaquin “Waah” Dean, at a club in downtown NYC.
“I’ve known Dee and Waah since I was about 13 or 14,” says Mook of the brothers who’ve led the hit-making Ruff Ryders label since 2000. “They used to hang in Harlem and were on fire at the time. I would come up to them, basketball in hand, and be like, ‘I rap.’ So I’d spit for them and Dee would be like, ‘Yo, you nice. Keep rapping.’ I’d say, ‘Sign me.’ And Dee was like, ‘Not yet, but you nice.’”
Mook finally got his shot at a Ruff Ryder deal years later after that chance encounter with Waah in the club. A meeting was arranged the next day, and after hearing several records, Waah signed Mook to his Ruff Ryder Indy label in May 2009.
Now, with high expectations in front of him, Mook knows his music has to defy the general wisdom that battle rappers can’t make albums. But Mook isn’t phased by the pressure. He’s confident that his upcoming, still-untitled, album project will offer the kind of diversity, introspection and originality that will take many by surprise. “I’m a street rapper,” says Mook, “but by me going to college, I also know the more educated lane. I intertwine the two sides in my music and tell stories that people can relate to.”
Murda Mook’s journey is indeed just beginning. And if his past triumphs, luck and coincidences are any indication, this legend-in-the-making is exactly where he needs to be.
“I just want people to feel me and appreciate my work,” he says. “I take this seriously. I don’t do this because people get paid from it. I really want to change the way music is done.”
When most people think about Hawaii, they think about black sand beaches, volcanic islands, and year round 80-degree weather. The city of Honolulu hosts the world famous Waikiki Strip, home of Shella a.k.a “The Blasian”, because of her black and Asian heritage.
Shella is a rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, and engineer with the force about to shake up the music scene with her own lyrics; she does this fluently in English and Japanese. Her melodic lines and catchy phrases undoubtedly let you know she has an exotic side of her own. Shella Saunders was born and raised in Honolulu to an African American father and a Japanese mother. Her music influences stem from both cultures. Shella got her smarts in music at the early age of eleven as a DJ for schools events and house parties. She has always been a fan of yoyo and Mc Lite, Left Eye, Eve, and females dominating the music industry. Tragically, her father was killed a year later and her passion for music grew as she learned how to turn bad emotions to good one by writing and singing songs. “I wrote my first set of songs to all the instrumentals on the Chronic 2001 Vinyl.”Shella has opened for all major acts that came through Hawaii including Sean Paul, Stylez P, and many record execs. At the age of fifteen years, she was flown to New York to talk about a record deal with Ruff Ryders. Everything seems to be together until suddenly her mother was murdered in Waikiki which forced her to move to Chicago with family at the age of 16. Numb to the world, with music as her only outlet Shella persevered and started to produce her own music and incorporate Japanese lyrics into her already lavish flow. Toyota caught wind of this new bilingual sound and placed her on a promotional CD sampler for Scion. This drove Shella to embark on a journey to bridge the gap between Asian and American urban pop markets. Upon graduating high school a year early, Shella went on to study audio engineering and received her pro tools operator’s license. Shella went to Tokyo for a while creating a buzz and developing international appeal. She linked up with DJ Princess Cut, a down south Japanese renowned DJ and put together her first EP: “Blasian Music” presented by DJ Princess Cut in 2008. The EP features Lil Flip and Hawaii’s own, Fiji. In May 2008 Shella’s EP landed on the billboard ton 100 R&B/Hip-Hop album chart consecutively for 3 weeks. Shella signed with Ruff Ryders Indy and is featured on the soon to be released album presented by Ruff Ryders called “Past, Present, Future”