I spoke with Frost before about his work on ZotheJerk's Black Beach, but I wanted to learn more about his approach to this project and Tone's motivations as an MC.
Prox: Could you talk about the philosophy of this project? What are some topics we can expect to see you and the other rappers riff on for this one?
Chop - There's a lot of different topics actually, like drug abuse, homelessness, hunger… Issues with the cops, death and just being in the world of Hip Hop in general. I always try to do better than my last body of work and I feel like I have done that.
Frost – With Veteran, we wanted to share our backstory, introduce ourselves – but with Respect Is Earned Not Given, we’ve tried to show you a more complete vision of who Chop is, speak on more topics, and create a very cohesive full album.
Prox: Why did you settle on Respect Is Earned Not Given as the title for this album? How does this relate to your journeys as musicians?
Chop - It's a title I've been sitting on for over a year. I feel like you should have to earn your respect on the mic lyrically and nowadays rappers got it too easy. I had to battle, do cyphers, free shows etc. and work very hard to gain any of the little respect I have- I had to earn it. I come from a small city where everybody thinks they are the best rapper. They don't wanna earn it though, they just go “yeah I'm the best.”
Frost – Basically, it’s been a long time coming. We’ve been doing this, living this, for a very long time, but just now starting to buzz and get known on a bigger scale. Coming off last year, when we got international and satellite radio play for the first time, the EP had critical acclaim and commercial success – so we’re definitely out to get our respect. Thankful for what we’ve achieved but looking for more.
Prox: How does the presence of veteran heavyweights like Planet Asia, Kool G Rap and Tragedy Khadafi challenge, elevate and improve the project as a whole? Did DNA's gritty battle background introduce a new level of competition in the studio?
Chop - It does elevate and improve the project. Made me push my pen more that's for sure. I'm very blessed to rock tracks with these cats I respect and am a fan of as well. I had done a couple tracks with DNA previously and had this verse in the cut for a project like this. The track with him compares the battle scene of now to the scene I grew up on. Respect to DNA, salute!
Frost – They are inspirations to us, VIPs in this culture we love & support – so from that perspective it’s an honor that we never take for granted. But, the best part is when you get to deal with cats on the personal side – KGR is unquestionably one of (if not THE) best of all time, but he was so humble and kind while we worked on the track, and has always made himself accessible to me after the job was done.
“Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps…”
Prox: What was the kind of energy you wanted to convey with this release from an atmosphere and lyricism perspective?
Chop - The energy is just pushing my pen to write a better project than the Veteran EP. I've been rhyming for so long, its crazy I feel like I keep getting better. I feel like as far as rapping I am the epitome. I work on everything, bars, punchlines, delivery, cadence etc. I work on my craft daily. Lyrically the energy on this project is high, real Hip Hop from the heart. I feel like every song came from a special place.
Frost – With Veteran I used a lot of known or easily recognizable samples, which isn’t my norm. With Respect Is Earned, we used a much broader palate, sampling from funk, soul, r&b, prog rock, jazz and more. And again, we touched on a lot of topics, but still have the hard battle bars in place; we tried for more of a balance.
Frost – Aside from the wider sample sources, I also adjusted our "sonic approach" a bit. On Veteran, the vocal mixes were all very raw, in your face – on Respect, there’s a bit more polish to the sound. You’ll hear even more of that on our future releases (as our studio equipment budget continues to grow…). Zo and Chop each can rhyme over any beat, but they do have slight differences in what they prefer.
My job as a producer is to really tap into those subtle preferences, and with Chop that’s pretty easy – we’ve been doing this, off and on, for over 20 years together.
Prox: Which would you say is your favorite track from the new album? Is there one that perfectly describes the meaning of this record?
Chop - It's hard to pick my most favorite, but one of them is definitely Beat Knocking. I can listen to it over and over. When Frost gave me the beat I just felt like I can write verses to it all day. The hook is catchy and lyrically proves I've been here and I'm not going nowhere anytime soon. Plus I said Respect Is Earned Not Given in the second verse so it stands out and fits with the album well.
Frost – Maaaaaan, I do love them all – but Inspiration still blows my mind every time I listen to it. Chop continues to surprise me, even after all these years.
Prox: Please tell us something that influences your work which we may not know.
Chop - One thing that influences my work you might not know is knowing I grew up when Hip Hop was at its best, so when I write I always reflect on those days. I come from the golden era. I'm not influenced or excited about too many cats these days. Only a few inspire me.
Frost – It’s funny, when I see cats talking about whatever hot song is out today half the time I haven’t even heard it, since I spend all my free time in the lab working on our own shit. I know most of the new rappers from memes only hahaha!! So, like Chop, my influences are old school, but I’d say that I get inspired specifically by listening to old soul/funk records, digging for grooves and sounds – it doesn’t come from the modern day industry stuff.
Prox: Do you have any further information about other upcoming projects and releases?
Chop - Nothing specific at this moment but we are still working and will keep you posted once we got things etched in stone.
Frost – I’m sitting on enough fly unreleased Chop material that you never know when something else might drop. Stay tuned for new Frost-produced projects coming soon: Tragedy Khadafi album, my compilation album I Missed My Bus in 2018, plus new White Rhino & ZotheJerk projects are under way…
Prox: Any final thoughts?
Chop - Please support real Hip Hop and pre-order the album you won't be disappointed. Thanks for the support and reaching out for this interview you're appreciated.
Frost – Thank you to Inside the Rift for your ongoing support! Please cop Respect Is Earned Not Given on iTunes, Bandcamp, or even your local record store… September 29, 2017. Salute to all Hip Hop heads worldwide!
Want to stay updated on new interviews and posts? Head over to the Inside the Rift Facebook page and leave a like or follow me on Twitter @insidetheriftx, Instagram @insidetherift, and Soundcloud @Insidetherift! You can also support me by Contributing or on Patreon!