Sunday, August 12, 2007
11 years ago a New York based MC with that confusing name Kukoo Da Baga Bonez released his first 12". Well, hundreds of acts did that back in the days. But there're two major differences between Kukoo and the rest: "Da Real Kukoo" didn't get lost between the freak tide of releases back then, it became a nowadays sought after indie-classic. And while other mc's lost their interest in music during the years Kukoo kept working in the booth and perfecting his skills. Now he's back with his debut album called "Da GRUSTLER" and proves -alongside his doggedness- an unexpected miscellaneousness as an artist. Time for an talk-down!

For those who don’t know you, what’s important to know about Kukoo?
That quality music is very important to me as well as progress and growth as an artist and individual.

You’re originally from New York, but now dwelling in Austria – how come?
I'm Originally from NY but doing my thang all over the globe because I feel the world needs to know who I am artist and person wise. I'm trying to bridge the gap between the different cultures. It should be no boundaries when it comes to communicating and working together.

Knowing each continent, is there any difference between the heads in Europe and the States?
Well, I see in the different European countries it’s definitely more chill and there are a lot of very talented and dedicated producers with a deep appreciation for quality music. and in the States the range of Talent is there also, but I think in America the artists/producers are more competitve because they are more in numbers and the market is bigger.

Cause of that I guess Europe isn’t that much into all that mixtape ish.

Since I’ve been out here I haven’t noticed any mixtape albums. I just get a lot of people reminiscing about the 90’s era, which is cool, but I think it’s important that we move on. I think Europe can't because there hasn’t been any quality product out in a while.

Which is a good point to start talking about your own work. Most people might remember your name due to your 96 release “Real Kukoo” 12”. You’ve just released your debut album “Da Grustler” – what can people expect from it?
Well, in ’96 I was in a different place and time as an artist. I was just beginning to see what capabilities I have as an artist. When we put “Real Kukoo” out we never expected it to do so well regarding popularity...I wasn’t ready.
I feel “Da Grustler” is a more focus and mature Kukoo Da Baga Bonez who has expanded on his talent and become sure of his skills and knows what direction he's heading to. Back then I was considered underground and the reason why artist were labeled underground was of the simple fact that we didn’t have major deals. That was considered underground but “Real Kukoo” was getting me mainstream attention, I knew I had the potential to go big but I didn’t have the necessary experience personally or around me. On this album it shows that I’m ready for whatever comes my way.
The album is a combination of different flavours from different people who come from different parts of the world but have the same objective: Get some hot product for the fans and consumers because they deserve it. I don’t ever want to cheat the people that support me or my music. On “Da Grustler” I let the beats talk to me – I listened
to the tracks and let them give me an idea of where to go with them. I truly believe it came together very well eventhough it was different producers from different parts of the world. The formula stayed the same: all of them had hot beats for me to chef. I don’t believe in the division of HipHop underground and mainstream. I think it’s just good and bad music.

But I think ‘good’ and ‘bad’ relates to a personal taste. For people who remember and will be connecting your name with “Real Kukoo” and that particular sound will be very surprised hearing your new tracks cause it’s a whole different style. Except “Who’s da hungriest” it’s all about synthi and – let’s say more danceable, modern music.
You’re right about personal taste because something I think sucks might be good to the next, so I guess everything is about how the person feels in regards to music “Da Grustler” is more caught up with the time I think. It still has that edgy Kukoo Da Baga Bonez original flavour but it has the appeal to stretch all over the world.

I feel “Real Kukoo” was a danceable track – it wasn’t totally underground, it also had a mainstream sound and was and still is a good record because it is quality sound. “Da Grustler” is seriously diverse in flows, beats and topics. I'm all about lyrics, like for instants “Come with lyrics” and “Story off wax” on "Da GRUSTLER" album is strictly about telling people it is important to have lyrical content. But it’s also important to have fun and be able to dance to music and feel the groove. And I wanted people to feel like that while listening to this album, I make music for the world, not just a certain genre or neighborhood. I think it’s important to unite people through sound. So far the feedback from the album has been overwhelmingly positive from all kinds of people, so I know what I’m doing is good for the culture and movement of quality product.

On “Who’s Da Hungriest” you say: “This ain’t the old or new school – this is an mc doing what he’s supposed to”. Do you think people are too focused on splitting music into old and new instead of listening to what people are actually saying in their music?
Yes, totally. If I say I’m oldschool I already limited myself as a person and an artist, same if I said I’m newschool. I feel I am an MC and there is no limits to where I go and grow as an artist. With anything division causes destruction. I still jam to the anthology of Al Green because it’s good music period.
I think HipHop artists focus too much about image instead of making what they feel in their hearts – fans and customers want to feel you through your sound.

About three weeks ago I was chillin’ with George DuBose and he proudly presented your album to me, not knowing that you already sent me a copy way back, and stated it as his best cover ever. How did you get in contact with George and how does it feel to get your cover done by such a legendary photograph?
That’s an interesting story. I went to Berlin to see a friend of mine at this event and this guy walks up to me and starts talking. I wanted something to eat and he was giving me directions. And then he showed me his card and I flipped out completely to know who this guy was. I grew up on his work, he’s the main reason I started doing music. His covers are certified classics! I’m very honored and privileged to know and work with George DuBose. This is my first album from a long career and to have Mr. DuBose do the album photos and designs is a blessing indeed. I got mad love for George and what he’s done and accomplished and he is still very passionate about his work. I dig that about him because I am also.
And for him to say my album cover is the best he has ever done is without a doubt one of my greatest achievements to date because he has photographed numerous classic covers from a real good era in HipHop, and he is still very active photography wise. I am very happy about it and the fact that he loves my music as well is a definite plus.

For sure! The last time we talked you stated yourself as “one of the last real New Yorkers”. Do you think New York HipHop has changed in a bad way?
Let me elaborate on that statement "last real New Yorkers" because NY is huge and there are many independent hungry M.C.'s in the game. I'm definitely apart of the elite MC's from back when, because I never hit my full potential and I'm still on my grind getting better with time. New York used to be about originality and lyrics. The artists are mostly following the trends now and not doing the music like artists from New York used to. People say the 90's was the best Era but I feel like the 80's up until the mid 90's was the best because the 80's was independent, passionate, original, creative and the records still went mainstream and the artist were just being who they were up until the mid 90's from then on Everyone started trying to sell themselves before the music as it began to become more commercial then even more capital came into play.

But you even said that people need to move on – do you think “Da Grustler” has that famous NY sound?
Yes! Because it’s not image driven at all. It’s straight lyrical and it has that feel from the days with an up to date twist, Da Grustler is who I am, my life is on the go and constant growth. I still got NY in my heart but I'm not limiting where I can go if I realize my full capabilities as a person and artist, I basically incorporated without compromising myself and my sound. I think the main reason that artists do not develop is the fact that
they have something to prove to the public. It was never about image and controversy,
I remember back when HipHop was HipHop. You had some of the most notorious gangsters around, more fierce than today, but it was never reflected in the music.

But it’s actually difficult: Most mid 90’s artist get disrespected for their new releases from the old heads because they think it’s a sellout move.
I mean opinions are like assholes – everyone has one. When I make music I never care who says what - I just do what I feel inside.
Not everyone is going to like what you do all the time, we cannot please the world.
you cannot stop your creative growth because some guys are like “hey, he’s selling out”. I feel too many artists are selling themselves and not the music. That’s why I set up Stand Or Fall Entertainment to reflect my feelings about where the HipHop scene was going and music in general either stand for something or fall for anything.

I’m standing but I leave fall there to remind myself that it’s not an option. And I also use fall to describe people who come up short when dealing with me or anybody in general who don't recognize and try to doubt.

There are only two options either STAND OR FALL, but don't waste my time. I used to sit in offices with A&R’s and meet all these industry people and they would tell me “Your good but I don’t think this label is right for you”, I even heard “you need to change your name because it’s not street enough” or “he’s not allowing people to know who he is”. All these are excuses because my music is music and not gimmick driven, they don’t know how to market it. They don't understand all you have to do is get that quality to the people,
The industry forgot about the fans and don't care about what they like and want to hear. But there are some professional business people that still stay true and recognize talent and I'm fortunate to be dealing with them. The rap game is like a soap opera: There’s so much hype about all these newly signed mainstream artists in New York but all of them failed to stack up. Not because they weren’t good, It’s too limited regarding the type of product that is being produced and they can't shine over the major artists that signed them. People are tired of hearing and seeing the same Ol same Ol. It's time for a change and Kukoo da baga bonez, Stand Or Fall Ent and Da GRUSTLER is bringing it.

So you’re not down with the typical New York artists?
I am from New York born and raised. I’m down with whoever wants to work on some sounds and do this for the movement and the cause. When I was in New York I was around all the groups from the 90’s. I asked to work with MC's that I felt was good and even got asked to work with some of them, but all of them failed to follow through and a lot of them dudes from the 90’s are fans of mine and expressed to me that they respect my flow and liked my music. But they never wanted to work because the rap game is very ego driven.
I always wanted to work with cats but dudes was frontin, making excuses when the time came to produce. It’s crazy when I think about it, I had to bounce from New York and the States for a hot minute and really get creative and do my own thing and make my own way.

C’mon, state names!
I mean ... I don’t want it to be an interview on that level, I’m just making a point. I’m glad that I never did work with cats though. I stayed in the cut for all these years perfecting my talent and now I’m at a point where it is time to let people know New York HipHop ain’t dead at all. The machine tried to block out the talent with political hustles.
Do you know how many talented artists there are in New York? It’s massive! but you only see the same five guys with all the fame and doe and the reason why HipHop is suffering is because they’re not allowing talent to enter! Big artist’s record-sales are suffering and they act like they don’t know why. It’s because people are tired of hearing you! Even though people love steak you can’t keep feeding it to them everyday because after a while you get sick. So instead of putting out new talent and sound they get one big artist and pair him up with another. I always got respect for my flow and music so it wasn’t a question of could I make it or not because my first 12” became a classic and it was commercially blowing up in New York. I could have done it but I’m glad I didn’t because I really wasn’t ready and who knows where I would be right now. I’m here for longevity and the movement of quality sound. So far the feedback from the album that I’m receiving is showing that I have another classic on my hands but this time the world will fully know. I signed a major TV-network licensing deal with"Fuel TV".They licensed 7 songs from Da GRUSTLER album. I'm also corresponding with video game companies as well as in talks of being a representative for this company that composes for TV, commercials and movies.
I’m not limiting myself to just being an MC. I’m a business man also, driven to secure that fans and consumers get the quality sound they deserve. They should get their monies worth.

There are some international producers on your album credits – where did you record the album?
The NY Tracks where recorded with a Queens producer by the name of Shakim who now goes by "Shakim Allah". Then I worked with Streetz from Chicago but we recorded in NY also, Final Cut, Toys R Fuct are from Austria and Lil Stone is from Switzerland. Ah yeah, can't forget that I got cuts from DJ Takonedoe doing his thing out of Austria! As you can see, it’s a global project – different flavor but all the same love. Photos and artwork by the legendary George DuBose makes for a classic album. No one is doing it like that no more – just collaborating with good artists. It’s all about who got the biggest name. Right now my album was done by people that are just talented, I guarantee this album will go down as one of the top HipHop albums.

So you think “Da Grustler” will become a classic?
Yes! It has all the elements of a classic album. A friend of mine who is a Hollywood screen writer said that the album was fantastic. But the thing that moved me the most was when he said that his 4-year old son was grooving to my sound and now says “Grustler” – it can’t get no more classic than that!

Anything you wanna say before you go?
All I want to say is that HipHop has been stagnate because of the artists that are now established. They’re the ones that keep putting these records out and causing controversy to sell records. I think all of this is totally played out and boring. I tell you one thing: I watched and let all these cats beef while I went in the lab and focused on straight flows and formulas. And while they were beefing I came with a classic album.
I just want to leave it on this note: music is for the world, not just for a section of a block, neighbourhood or the ghetto, streets and suburbs. Music is made for the ears to hear - everywhere!

True! Thanks for taking time out to build bro!
Thanks for the interest and allowing me to voice my thoughts with you by giving me an avenue for people to know that there are true artists out here – and no doubt, much respect to Maze – we will definitely work together in the future!

I wanna say thanks to Kukoo for the talk down. As a little DiggersSpot special you can now check out my personal favorite of "Da GRUSTLER" called "Who's Da Hungriest".

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posted by Maze@DiggersSpot at 6:11 PM

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Brakkbacda

very good work maze, keep it up !


At 11:55 PM, Blogger Perfecta

nice interview bro, imma hunt down his debut now, cause this has made me curious, and if imma see his album in store, i'll buy it.

keep them coming!


At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

Nice interview. Keep your head up and keep shooting for the stars.


At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Real kukoo en concert!!!et qui oublie
ces textes....c grave!!!