Last updated: 11/01/2011 12:00:00 PM
"I first started rapping when I was eight years old," says Rampage. "I grew up with Busta (Rhymes) in the early eighties in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. We would pick up instruments, beat drums, even play guitars back then, you know, do anything to make a beat." Their ingenuity obviously paid off, with Busta garnering hip hop accolades with L
eaders of the New School, then cementing his place as one of rap's most intriguing characters, and Rampage set to launch his own hip hop assault.
"But my real musical know-how first showed when I'd listen to my Father and my Uncle play. They were both musicians," remembers Rampage. "So we'd sneak against my Uncle's door and listen to him play bass guitar. That's what inspired me to get into this game. He had drum machines and all that, and that's what inspired me and I'm sure it inspired Busta as well." The two cousins soon started making tapes together. Busta would play drums and Rampage would handle the guitar. Their early noizemaking, though slightly primitive, showed the first signs of the improvisation and wild playfulness that both rappers display on their albums. "I think when you grow up willing to bang on things like we did, you realize the importance of keeping it live sounding - keeping it surprising," says Rampage.
Rampage says he learned the professional side of the music industry - the benefits of putting together a more polished hip hop presentation - when Bustaand cohorts launched The Leaders of the New School. "It was like a training ground for me," he says. "It showed me the ropes, and how you had to struggle. How you had to vibe and stay together and be true to yourself without losing your focus." That focus led to Rampage signing on with Busta's own Flipmode production/management company, and the making of his soon to be released debut album, Scout's Honor...By Way of Blood.
But does rubbing elbows with the likes of Busta create more pressure? With the hip hop winds changing so fast, Rampage points out any rapper looking to deliver the goods in today's climate must not only be focused, but be willing to take risks to establish their own identity. "That's what Busta did," he says. "And if you look at me I come right at ya'. I don't slur my words, I bring it straight to your face. I'm about ruggedness, about bringing the fullest to you I can bring." Examples of the Rampage bravado can be heard on the new LP on cuts such as "Talk of the Town," and "Flipmode Enemy #1."
"I write off air," he says. "A lot of artists will talk about how they have to get a dope beat before they can come up with some words. I've always liked to freestyle. I write words that just come into my head a lot of times with no beats to back me up. I'll envision it and then I'll put it to beats. I'm the lyrical lieutenant of The Flipmode squad," he laughs. "You shoulda' saw how we came up with the hook for "Wild For The Night." Busta was like: ŒYo, I got it. I got it. I got it' And I was like ŒNo, I want to come up with it.' we were vibing. So when we got in the studio we were both ready. We just started wildin'. And we just started laughing like hell because it was so funny. That's how we came up with it. Playing off each other." Rampage says the resulting song is the tension breaker of the LP. "You know, it's like after you hear it you say: "Shit, I'm leaving the office, I gotta' go break something," he laughs.
The album was produced by what Rampage calls his extended family: DJ Scratch, DJ Backspin and Rashad Smith. It was Smith who helmed Busta 's "WOO-HAH!!! GOT YOU ALL IN CHECK". His midas touch is very much in evidence on Rampage's second single "Take It To The Streets." The party jam features labelmate Billy Lawrence and is sure to add Rampage's arsenal.
If Busta adds to Rampage more rambunctious side, another rap visionary completes the Brooklyn native's strong ties to rap history.: "Chuck D from Public Enemy is a big hero of mine," he says. "I do a remake of a PE song on the album, "Flipmode Enemy #1." Chuck gave the New School its name and he's also a Rampage fan. He's like a father to all this. People like Hank Shocklee (one of rap's influential producers, PE among others) and Chuck and everybody, it's like a family and the family keeps moving in many forms," says Rampage.
"A lot of people in this business talk family and keepin' it real and all that, but then they go and do the opposite," says Rampage. "That's why I got a song on the album called "Get The Money and Dip." What I'm saying there, is just get your money and go home. Fuck all the politics you creating out there. Do what you feel and then dip. Break out. Instead of battling about this and that just do what you came here to do. Are you gonna make records or are you gonna' bullshit everyone?"
Rampage seeks the same level of honesty in his live show. "Animated," is his one-word description. "Flowing," would be his only addendum to that. And what does the future hold for hip hop and Rampage, whose been doing this since he was eight years old?
"I take it seriously," he says. "I don't want anyone messing with the legacy of what hip hop has meant to all of us. Just let us do our thing. If Bruce Springsteen can say whatever he wants, let us have that right too. It's no mystery why hip hop can be mixed with every other form of music. With jazz, with rock, with club....It's a universal language - beats and rhymes - hip hop can mess with anything. You call Huey Lewis and I'm with the News. If I put my heart into it like my father taught me way back when, I can do anything. Now, he had a home and family he had to take care of. So the way I look at it, I'm picking up where he left off."