By Dashaun Simmons for Fusicology NYC
Jay-Z in a collaboration with M.O.P once stated that listeners were about to witness “the most intelligent ignorant sh*t” they ever heard. I don’t know if there is a better phrase to describe Brownsville, Brooklyn’s flag bearers Billy Danze and Lil Fame. The 1st Family of Hip Hop made a humble return to their home sweet home of Brooklyn to perform in Southpaw. This show was a celebration in one way because the duo rarely gets to perform in Brooklyn and on top of that it was Fame’s birthday.
It’s interesting to see opening acts that are about half the age of the M.O.P exuding no influence from their main act. The first group “The Upperclassmen” was a “band” but they seemed to be still working out the kinks in their show. Their music had an evident Kanye feel complete with a cover of the song “Hell of a Life”. Additional openers Skotch Davis and The Sleepwalkas gave much-appreciated raw rap energy to get the crowd ready for the Brownsville bullies.
Before M.O.P took the stage, Fusicology got the chance to speak with Fame and Billy and the boys were very optimistic about the music they make and love. When asked about the current choices in hip hop music Billy pointed out, “Don’t you see Pharoahe Monch just put an album out? Don’t you see what Boot Camp is doing, what DJ Premier is doing, Pete Rock, what M.O.P is doing?” In these days where ego and opportunity consistently break up and stall rap groups from the big names like Outkast (we know 10 the hard way coming soon) down to acts like Little Brother; M.O.P have somehow stayed close knit. When asked about the idea of a rap group they replied, “We’re not a group. We’ve been down since before the world knew us as M.O.P”.
Fellow underground rap veterans like Big Noyd from The Infamous Mobb Deep crew and Steele from Smif N Wessun blended into the crowd and looked on as M.O.P took the stage. When you’re a group with a catalog as deep as theirs you can afford to bounce around from album to album.
They started with the smash “Cold As Ice” from their Warriorz LP. With Laze E Laze on the 1s and 2s, the audience was transported back to a time of punch you in your face hip hop. From their first single “How About Some Hardcore” to gems like “4 Alarm Blaze” with a missing in action Teflon on deck, the energy level was on 10. It’s absolutely impossible to leave an M.O.P show with your voice intact. While most underground hip hop shows have a tribute to the fallen soldier GURU in the set, it’s more personal for M.O.P. Fame and Billy knew the man. They worked with his partner DJ Premier as if he were their primary producer.
Fame and Billy have been in the rap game since 93 and have seen a lot of acts come and go. They have been on more than 5 record labels in their career. They still rep Brooklyn even though the borough has gone through a number of changes. When asked about their home, Fame states, “It’s real corporate now. It’s a lot of those other people but a new generation will thug it out again.” Billy adds, “Hopefully things will change for the better but we’re fighting against forces and nobody is giving us any opportunities.” In a city where people are still feeling disenfranchised, an anthem like “Ante Up” still holds true unfortunately. As long as there is a class of people being overlooked and kept out from the fruits of society M.O.P will have an audience. In their own words they make “Ghetto Music” and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Salute.