Speedknot Mobstaz Interview
|Label:||Get Money Gang/EMI|
|Next Project:||Mobstability 2: Nation Business|
|Website:||Speedknot Mobstaz's Website|
After the success of their ’98 debut album, “Mobstability,” the Speedknot Mobstaz and their leader Twista ventured outside their Midwest circle and signed recording contracts with Atlantic Records. Unfortunately, for Liffy Stokes and Mayz, while their boss Twista was able to release three albums over the past ten years, the duo sat idle waiting for their time to shine.
Luckily, the duo was able to get out of their recording contract with Atlantic and after releasing numerous independently success underground albums, Twista brokered a deal between his Get Money Gang label and Koch for the Mobstaz to release their long-awaited follow-up, “Mobstability 2: Nation Business,” this spring.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth‘s DJ “Z,” Liffy Stokes and Mayz step into the booth to talk about the concept behind fake images in hip-hop, how Oprah Winfrey could lure them into signing a recording contract if she started up her own record label and what Grammy nominations for Kanye, Common and Lupe mean for the city of Chicago.
Listen to the Interview
Speedknot Mobstaz Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth are two of my Windy City neighbors. Representing the West Side of the Chi, please welcome Liffy Stokes and Mayz of the Speedknot Mobstaz – fellas, how you doin’?
Liffy Stokes: Hey man, what’s goin’ on, Jack?
Mayz: What’s happenin’ with you, Church?
DJ Booth: Guys, it might be cold outside, but your music’s gonna heat up the spring very soon. New album, “Mobstability 2: Nation Business,” set for release this March, almost ten years after your debut. So, after the relative success of that debut, Twista’s emergence over the past ten years, why did it take so long to record and release this follow-up?
Liffy Stokes: We was goin’ though legal problems, with Atlantic record label and [Twista] was too. It took him a minute to get out of his contract, and after they dealt with him, they was dealin’ with us, and it took us an extra year or so to get out of our contract. But during that whole time, wee was droppin’ underground material. We had our independent label, Legit Ballaz, we was movin’ like one hundred and fifty thousand units with each project. We was never really quiet; we was still doin’ our thing, but just on the underground level. This is our comeback on the major side.
DJ Booth: Do you think there is anything you could have done over the past ten years to possibly get out of that contract early, or make some other type of move so that on a national level, more people would’ve known about the Speedknot Mobstaz?
Liffy Stokes: Well yeah, as you grow older, you realize, “If I would’ve did this different, or would’ve did this different, this outcome probably would’ve been better than this,” but that’s livin’ life – live and learn.
DJ Booth: Definitely. Guys, the title, “Nation Business” is appropriate, considering we are in an election year, and there’s a lot of business that needs to be taken care of. So, what are some of the items on your list of priorities for a new president?
Mayz: At this time, personally, I’d rather see a Democrat in office, somebody who’s a little more grounded to the streets and more people-oriented. It just seems like we got away from dealin’ with our own people here in the United States, and personally, we got a lot of issues here at home, especially in the rural areas, so I’d like to see the president focus more on that.
DJ Booth: So take care of our home front before we worry about international affairs – I agree completely. First single off the new album is, “Money to Blow,” so what do each of you individually blow the most money on?
Speedknot Mobstaz: [laughter]
Mayz: Vices. We blow plenty of money on vices, let’s keep it real.
DJ Booth: Vices – okay, so can we go into a little bit more detail?
Liffy Stokes: [laughter] Let’s just say, we blow our money on livin’ great!
Mayz: Women, cars, clothes – you know, the finer things of life that we all try to get.
Liffy Stokes: And drugs!
Speedknot Mobstaz: [laughter]
DJ Booth: Yeah, I was gonna say – do you blow it on kush?
Mayz: Oh, we blow it on kush, most definitely! On kush and sour diesel, baby!
DJ Booth: Now that’s all good, but with the economy in a near recession, would you say that blowing money right now might not be the smartest thing to do?
Liffy Stokes: If you ain’t got it to blow, don’t blow it. Don’t try and blow it if you know, “Man, I gotta pay my rent on the first,” and you sit up and go out and blow five hundred, six hundred. If you know you gotta pay that eighteen hundred rent, and you know if you blow this much money, you’re gonna be short, don’t blow your money, Jack – save your dough.
Mayz: That’s real talk. This song’s for the true hustlers, those who survive in the wilderness, you know?
DJ Booth: While Chicago has always been a melting pot in terms of production styles, the cut is very un-Midwest, I’d say. Do you guys find yourselves being influenced by material outside of the Chicago area?
Liffy Stokes: Oh yeah, most definitely. We influenced by all material – we listen to everybody. By us bein’ in the Midwest, we listen to the West Coast, we listen to the East Coast, and we been down, diggin’ the South music.
DJ Booth: I read in the press release for the new project, a quote from Mayz, “We don’t have to create a fake image; we just have to let our soul speak to the people.” I’m going to play devil’s advocate with you guys and ask, isn’t a song like, “Money to Blow” the conception of a fake image? ‘Cause most people don’t have that money to blow.
Mayz: I agree with you on most people, but I ain’t gonna say that’s a fake image. It’s a fake image for those who can’t, and those can’t have to get in where they fit in.
Liffy Stokes: You ain’t gotta be rich to have money to blow. You could be an average Joe who’s barely makin’ it, but when he got a couple extra dollars, he’s gonna go to the strip club, get him a couple lap dances. That’s blowin’ money! If you ever went out and bought a whole bunch of groceries at your crib, but you still say, “You know what? I wanna go eat at a restaurant tonight,” you blowin’ money! So you ain’t necessarily gotta be shellin’ out thousands to be like, “Man, I’m blowin’ money and I’m doin’ it big!” you could be doin’ it big in your own little world.
DJ Booth: Let’s concentrate on the phrase “fake image.” Who do you think, right now, is personally responsible – you don’t have to name names – for portraying a fake image that has tarnished hip hop?
Mayz: Well, honestly, it’s a little bit of both those who don’t know the true meaning of hip hop, some from the younger generation who just wanna live their dream, and, two, it’s those powers that be, so to speak, who just wanna make a quick dollar off of whatever artists they can come up on. They make a lot of junk singles and they put ‘em out there and they blow up.
Liffy Stokes: I gotta say this: if somebody makes a song, and it blows up, that’s the people speaking. If that song was too gangsta or it wasn’t creative enough, then why didn’t the people think that? You got a lot of guys right now, who are like, “Oh, hip hop’s all f*cked up, woo woo woo.” Well, I feel like them the old cats talkin’! You gotta be able to change with the times – if you gettin’ mad or hatin’ on a Soulja Boy or a Lil Webbie, then you need to check yourself and think, “Maybe I’m gettin’ old with this sh*t. Maybe I need to change with the times.” ‘Cause the majority is sayin’ that music’s hot! You one of the minority, sittin’ to the side, “Oh, I ain’t f*ckin’ with that!”
DJ Booth: The end part of that quote read that you’re gonna “let your soul speak to the people.” Do you feel like major labels want to allow their artists to creatively let their souls speak to the people?
Liffy Stokes: Your soul to speak to the people, as long as it’s radio-friendly. [laughter] Right now the labels are chasin’ the dollar so bad, they really won’t allow an artist to really get creative. Back in the day, they used to work with an artist when an artist was tryin’ to get their sound out. Now they’re like, “We need this! We need this for the radio! That album’s cool, but we need this for a single!” It’s the labels!
DJ Booth: Do you guys feel like your situation right now, with Koch, allows you to be more creative than you could be at your old label, Atlantic?
Liffy Stokes: Oh yeah, most definitely.
Mayz: Most definitely. They give us a lot of – they just don’t pick and choose the music, they allow us to choose it, and at the end of the day we have more creative control and we can make a little more money at the same time.
DJ Booth: Everyone knows that Chicago’s top dog is none other than Oprah Winfrey. Now, publicly, she’s against rap music, and the quote unquote “obscene” and “misogynistic” language it includes. But what if she decided to change her stance and start up a new record label? So, Oprah reaches out to you guys about a record deal, however she stipulates that your material could not include foul language. Would you sign on her dotted line?
Liffy Stokes: No… me, no, ‘cause I have to be able to express myself. I wouldn’t do it, unless the paper was right.
DJ Booth: Oprah’s a billionaire, so she’s shellin’ out plenty of advance money for you guys, and she just wants to know that the final product is not going to include foul language. Do you think, for that much money, you could express yourself without dirty words?
Mayz: Yeah. I mean, if we’re forced to – that’s a tough question, ‘cause, at the end of the day, brothers want that money, and that’s what we in it for, not just to express ourselves. If we downright had to, if they cut it out of our music, period, and could we do it? Yes.
DJ Booth: What does it mean for Chicago hip hop when, after so many years of unnoticed hard work and true talent, the rap categories for this year’s Grammys included three of our hometown guys: Kanye, Lupe, and Common.
Liffy Stokes: That’s great for the city, man. Anything that sheds light on the city is great for it. Kanye makes beautiful music, Common do his thing, Lupe do his thing – they don’t do nothing but shed light on the city and make it better for the city.
Mayz: I say it’s about time. We all been tryin’ to break in the business, and get recognized for it, so it’s definitely a beautiful thing, and we are proud of the brothers for that.
DJ Booth: All the years that you guys were grinding, did you ever think Chicago hip hop artists would be recognized on a national scale like they are right now?
Liffy Stokes: We always hoped they would be. That’s what they shoulda been doin’.
Mayz: But to keep it real, back in the day, when we was grinding, we was like, “Man, they ain’t gonna never give us no peace!” But we always hoped it would be, and it’s good to see that we are there.
DJ Booth: Well the times have certainly changed, and you guys are definitely a part of that. “Mobstability 2: Nation Business,” out this March – give everybody one reason apiece why they need to go out and cop an album.
Liffy Stokes: Man, it’s that new street music, for the new ’08. Everything you heard and you loved in the first “Mobstability” album, is in that second “Mobstability” album. It’s not cold. I’ll tell you, the people really need to hear this album. We’re talkin’ about real issues – we ain’t spaceballin’.
Mayz: No doubt. This is definitely one of the hottest albums. You know, a lot of times you a get a lot of albums out there where you can bump the songs that you hear on the radio, and then you pop it out, but this album right here you can bump from track one all the way to the end.
Liffy Stokes: That’s one thing: you gonna get a whole album, a whole album that you love to listen to, not just some songs, just three or four cuts. You gonna put the CD in and let it ride, guaranteed.
DJ Booth: Well that is a great guarantee, considering we’re in an age of music right now where so many consumers only want to go digital. Give everybody a website or a MySpace page so they can find out more about the album and of course what you have goin’ on in ‘08.
Liffy Stokes: myspace.com/4speedknotmobstaz, or myspace.com/4liffystokes, or myspace.com/mayzthahitman, and find out all the latest news on the Get Money Gang, Speedknot Mobstaz, and Twista, even though Twista’s MySpace page is myspace.com/twista.
DJ Booth: Well, that’s what’s up. You guys are about your business. I appreciate your time greatly; I appreciate you for joining me inside the DJ Booth, and nothing but the best of luck with this new album.
Mayz: All right, man, we appreciate the love.