Searching for something. Something better. Something devastatingly dynamic and willing to oppose the day with skill, talent, beauty and the hardcore. They exist. A conglomerate of Original artists that have compiled their worth at the latest oasis of Hip Hop music making, Goblin Music Studios. Here in Astoria, Queens, a core of criminally unknown MCs (Spit Gemz, Starvin B, G.S. Advance and others) and one gifted singer (Carmen Indhira), wield all the tools supremely—lyrical and vocal dexterity, diverse content, distinct vocalizations all embalmed naturally in the Realness. This is the Opposition.
Opposing with original material that includes Starvin B’s The Food Chain LP (http://starvinb.bandcamp.com/album/the-food-chain), The Opposition’s Rules of Engagement (http://www.2dopeboyz.com/2011/11/15/the-opposition-shaz-illyork-spit-gemz-rules-of-engagement-mixtape/) and Spit Gemz’ Welcome to Hellzgate (http://www.2dopeboyz.com/2012/07/28/spit-gemz-welcome-to-hellzgate-mixtape/). The latter original mixtape becoming one of the best releases of the year is where we begin to build on the origins of The Opposition. Spit Gemz, an MC’s MC, who has unlimited technique and all the ideas of greatness towards verse is empowered by a realness aged by love, hell and the truly right Hip Hop. The following is some of our build…
SPIT GEMZ: The Opposition basically started just as an idea between me and G.S. Advance. We were calling it The Rapture back then. The Colllective. The Rapture. We did one song together and it just gelled. I said we gotta –there’s too many in Queens. Shout out to Brooklyn. That’s my home of the illest MCs ever. But the underground scene in Queens–and like you said. You made a real good point about Queensbridge. The energy was so much in that area that outskirts of Queens didn’t really get any shine.
SPIT GEMZ: And bigup to Queensbridge cuz it’s been like the greatest inspiration for us, dudes from Corona, Astoria, Woodside, Flushing, all these neighborhoods. If you was from Queens and you rapped you listened to Queensbridge artists. My ties to Queens led me to good places. Me and G.S. Advance led to Shaz. That led me to Starvin B. Then Gob Goblin whom I met in jail but I’ve heard his name since the Nogoodus, his appearances on Beatnut albums. Since the ending of 2010, me and Thirst had a meeting of the minds. Him seeing potential in me and telling me, ‘get ya team together and I’m a back you 100 percent and you just run with it.’ And Gob Goblin at the same time with Goblin Music Studios played a major role too cuz it gave us a venue, a place to meet and build, create our own vibe with no outside influence. We didn’t have to be any type of way to be in the studio for a month straight recording. All we had to do was us. He gave us that space and whoever I see with potential. After G.S. Advance it was actually Starvin who I seen rapping in a barber shop. I seen a video of him rappin in a barber shop. I never heard of him before that and I seen him and that happened to be my best friend Late Nite whose barber shop he went to. I hit him up and said, ‘Dude, you’re amazing. I don’t know why you not buzzin right now. This is what I can do. I got a studio. I shoot and direct my own videos, still on the learning curve with that. And Starvin came aboard. Shaz came aboard through mystic type of stuff. His Pops and my Pops used to do crime together in this neighborhood in the 80’s. It all came together as one.
[NOTE: Spit Gemz & Shaz IllYork have parted musical ways for said reasons known by the said persons of musical responsibility]
SUNEZ: I really see Lo Lifes as integral today in preserving and resurrecting the street roots and living culture that fuels Hip Hop music. And this resurgence isn’t possible without the legendary Thirstin Howl III. As a Lo brother, how do you see that?
SPIT GEMZ: First and foremost I definitely agree. As far as Thirstin Howl, he’s played a humongous part in my emergence if you would as of late. And also the orchestration of a full frontal attack. In 2010, early 2011, Thirst came to everybody, ‘we gon flood. We gon push, keep our foot on their neck. Every week we gon drop some videos, new songs.” Thirst has been around for awhile now from Lyricist Lounge and all that so he’s got deep roots in the underground. The way he sees it, I think, is that Lo Life is the last faction of New York that has deep rooted history as far as Hip Hop, as far as the streets, as far as fashion, all around the board. Instead of just keeping Lo Life as something from the streets he wanted to turn it into something positive and make something musical out of it. So he’s been my inspiration, as far as independence, instead of just waiting to get signed or somebody to come help me or tell me what to do. He’s been my biggest inspiration. Look at what he’s done from nothing. Thirstin Howl was on work release working at MTV. Crazy stuff so from me being on parole and being in and out of jail my whole life, coming from nothing and seeing what he’s been able to do by himself with no budget, no promotion. That really put the battery in my back. It’s been a blessing.
He’s a strong advocate of originality. Be yourself and just master you. Do what you do. Between Thirstin Howl and going through so much negative and depressing stuff in my life he’s encouraged me to laugh and have fun with it. Just having fun with the fact that I could rhyme like this is my toy and let me play with it. Always using it to build things or destroy things. Let me just use it to make me smile. Thirst definitely taught me that. I remember I used to get 50 views on youtube. Like 6 months and 50 views. I’m like, ‘what do I have to do get in peoples’ faces?’ and Thirstin gave me that jewel that it’s just consistency. You have the talent already. You got skills. Just stay in peoples’ faces. You gotta work five times harder than this dude right here. That’s just been it.
SUNEZ: When did you notice that people really listening now?
SPIT GEMZ: A big part of it was the videos. I started with my daughter’s digital camera and realized it had the ability to record. At the same time, me and my boys had just got some IMacs. They told us you could put Pro Tools on it. Mind you I just came home from prison. I didn’t even know how to turn a computer on. I got it. Took a couple of clips, standing here rapping, there rapping. Scenery that I liked.
SUNEZ: Like the “History is ill” video.
SPIT GEMZ: Right. They were all a straight learning curve. And I was amazed when I was done with them. This is the illest shit in the world and it put the fire under me. The underground and the state of Hip Hop, the internet plays a major part in that right now. It’s like our home. The internet is the home of the underground. It gives us the ability especially through social sites like Facebook and Twitter that some look at as corny or cheesy or whatever. It gives us the ability to put our stuff out there to as many people as we choose. Your fans choose you on the internet. It’s not like false broadcasting or rotation on the radio. It’s not being force fed to them. They hear it through word of mouth or they hear it one place or another and they choose to repetitively listen to it and seek you out. So you find your true fan base. The only way I could make that happen, really reach out and get one fan at a time and find the people that are really into the real hip hop motivated me to make these videos better, network better.
SUNEZ: Tell us your MC beginnings.
SPIT GEMZ: The same way I’m part of a collective now I came from a collective called Broken Home. Now Broken Home is the film company. That’s family. It started with me, my brother Late Nite right here. A dude named Ay Lo, Detek and another brother who actually founded the whole thing named Submariner. Submariner was the first one to rhyme out of all of us and he inspired us. I used to freestyle for fun. I started freestyling with the Morning show with Ed Lover and I’d just come up with little things just playing. Strictly playing to make my boys laugh or whatever stuff like that. And I remember people saying stuff like, ‘you nice.’ ‘You got flow.’ I’m like ‘Yeah, right. I’m Puerto Rican bro. I can’t rap.’ This is before Pun. We had Fat Joe, Kurious Jorge. But they was from the Bronx or close to the home of Hip Hop. I really felt it was something I couldn’t do then. And then I remember what pushed me over the edge was Wu-Tang. They were so crazy with it, so different that it spoke directly to me. I had Gods and Earths around me at that time too so it was kind of under that tutelage so it spoke to me a lot and all of us at Broken Home. And that Broken Home project is coming out soon just to make sure I stick to my roots so the world could see where I come from because that was our life. It used to be dual cassettes. One radio to play the instrumental and another one to record my voice and then synchronize and make 90 minute TDKs all day. Freestyling and then I started getting nice with the writtens. My boy Submariner stopped rhyming and things changed for him. He had a family. I started going to jail like Rikers Island, C-74. It was like it brought light to a dark situation to be able to get in a cipher and do that. Once I seen that it was tested in a cipher and dudes was reacting to it like, ‘Yo, let me hear something.’ I’m like, “I’m nice. I’m Puerto Rican and I’m nice.” Then Pun. That signed and sealed this shit. The nicest dude to ever do this is Puerto Rican. It’s a wrap.
The 3Rahnomics- some of that was written. I got locked up in 2001. Some of that was written prior to that. I started writing rhymes at the end of ’98, ’99, actually writing them down and filling up a rhyme book. Not taking it seriously but still solidified that I do this. Never thinking of blowing but just this is what I do. So collecting all them rhyme books and going in jail for that long stretch I did. I did like 6 years. It got amplified cuz the only thing to do in jail was work out, read and write. Writing and reading has always been my passion. Writing rhymes is like a combination of both. That pacified the beast in me and that came out in like 2007 with a tremendous amount of rhymes. 3Rahnomics is like 20% of that and 3Rahlution is like another 20% of that. After that, it was solidified this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is it. At the same time I caught wind of the internet and could really make this happen.
SUNEZ: And we all saying the name wrong.
SPIT GEMZ: It’s really Era but people say 3Erah, 3rah, so its whatever with me.
SUNEZ: But you were doing graffiti with that name.
SPIT GEMZ: Yeah, definitely. Graffiti was like since I was nine, ten. I was writing on everything. That’s because of my uncles who are only like 3 years older than me are like my big brothers. They got into the graffiti heavy with markers and spray cans all over the house. Even my father I remember before he went away when I was young I remember him heavy into graffiti. I mean my father has pictures with Dondi. That influence was always there. So when it came to having a rap name it was just that.
SUNEZ: Like KRS.
SPIT GEMZ: Word. Shout to KRS. And I still bomb every chance I get. I don’t write Era no more though. Just as much love as I have for the rapping I have for the graffiti.
SUNEZ: Hellzgate isn’t a mixtape. Except for the countless features keeping it from being a pure solo album this is an album of incredible original material. Here and in all The Opposition works, the beats are bangin. How do you choose beats?
SPIT GEMZ: I’m 100 percent every trip looking for the drums. I like real old school dirty breakbeat drums.i can rap to just the drumline. If a dude sent me a dope drumline I don’t need a sample. I’m good. I don’t need too many high hats. Really, the drum is really everything. Producers ask me, ‘yo, I want to send you stuff. What are you looking for?’ I hate telling them to listen to my music. So what I do is tell them, ‘do you remember in school when dudes used to be bangin in the lunchroom table. You remember those beats? Those four or five different drum patterns cuz it was always the same ones.’ I said if you could remember that then whatever you want to throw on that it’s good. My favorite instrument is the piano. I like violins. I don’t get a lot of them as as I want.
SUNEZ: Do you dig yourself?
SPIT GEMZ: Defintiely. Ciber digging now I’m guilty of. Looking on the net for old joints I’ve been doing now.
SUNEZ: There are so many lyrical techniques, wordplay devices and ill vocal dexterity you’re throwing in your verses. How’d you develop this? And what’s your writing process like?
SPIT GEMZ: It feels natural to flow that way. It has a lot to do with how much I read. I love words, studying the meanings of them, counting the syllables in them. How to own a word. When I was young I was a horror in school. My fifth grade teacher Mr. Kaufman used to sit me in the back of the classroom and read the dictionary and copy it. That was his idea of punishment. He didn’t realize what he was doing for me. I remember at times when I was first doing it I would skip words, a couple of pages and he would catch it and send me back. It became a real habit. When I got bored I read the dictionary. It’s the best book in the world.
SPIT GEMZ: As of lately I haven’t written out my verses. Hellzgate is not written straight up except for “Wasted Years.” There’s times when I write but not straight through. I‘ll think of something and if I don’t want to forget like a line or a word. Maybe just one word or two that sound dope together I might just jot those down. But I always keep my books cuz I used to write straight through. Like I would start a verse and sit there, one line at a time, until I got through it. As the years went on I just started jotting ideas around all over the page, sporadic. It’s really like the mood and the moment is taking charge. Whatever comes naturally. The first bar I’ll just like repeat it five times until it’s locked into a flow. Then I go to the next bar. Freestyle has a lot to do with that. Like freestyling the next line four or five different ways. Then I’ll take that or half of that. Then I might catch that there are four syllables I really like so I’m gonna base my next line on those four syllables. So when I get my next line I’m looking for those four syllables.
SUNEZ: Tell us about the Galaxy Defender project you’re working on?
SPIT GEMZ: Queens is the galaxy and lately my views and my interests are in looking at the world that’s bigger than the hood, bigger than me. I always wanted to write music like that. Defend my people. Defend the youth is what it’s really about. Defend from programming from tv and ideologies they are forcing on us. Almost like an alien invasion. It’s like I grew up on comic books hardbody. I read from a young age to get my vocab up. So I wanted to go the comic route, merge lyricism to that world and try to reintroduce it. The Wu ain’t really go all the way with it but they stuck their foot in it and opened the door. And that shit was dope. I wanted to kind of reinvoke that and take it a step further and talk about some galactic issues. The sciences are deep as far as the universe, the planets and the procession of the equinox and ain’t nobody talking about that. And there’s a couple of features on there too. I want to do like multiple covers, 3 limited edition covers. One with the Easter bunny held hostage, one with Santa Claus held hostage just so we get down some of these foul holidays and get a little controversial with them. Then the official cover gonna be some Spit Gemz Galaxy Defender.
SUNEZ: In this commercial world the decision for the youth trying to be a rap star is to savage out, get the paper and then be “righteous.” Today’s rappers make the song that infects millions with the savagely wack message insincerely done then offer help to a small thousand with the charity. It’s beyond asking MCs to be a role model but just the question, do you keep it right, as you know it, only after you get the millions?
SPIT GEMZ: For me personally I can’t respect it. If you know ahead of time that something is not righteous and doesn’t even sit well within you then you are poisoning people. If you know something is gonna influence somebody—I’m not gonna say I’m the most conscious rapper in terms of speaking no violence or have no aggression to my skill. But my thing is my music always has to provoke thought. It has to stimulate brain activity. Life is not all peaches and it hasn’t been all pretty and butterflies for me. It’s been hard so I’m gonna bring that. I’m gonna show them that it’s hard. I’m gonna bring that aggression and make you think what I’m doing. I’m gonna use a couple of words that you might have never heard before to make you go ‘damn, let me go look that up.’ That one spark, that one thought, might lead to a whole other chapter in your life. So I can’t really respect it. If I chose to do it I’ve sat down with other MCs and playfully said, ‘check this song I just made in ten minutes. See if this could be on the radio?’ on some straight bullshit and other people in the room are like, ‘that’s hot!’ They telling me ‘Son, you’re buggin?! Put that out!’ Are you kidding me man?! Delete that shit. So I can’t really relate to that. As far as a dude who is living a certain way and he becomes righteous along the road. More power to him. That’s dope. That’s wassup. I just can’t do the poisoning.
SUNEZ: Hip Hop is destroyed daily. What’s the motivation to keep adding on?
SPIT GEMZ: The spirit of independence. Being able to create your own lane regardless to what’s going on around you. I exist so therefore my train of thought exists and for it to exist I must have A-Alikes. And there’s millions of people. So my motiviation is there’s gotta be people out there who feel the same way I do. Sort of like if you build it, they will come. I know people are waiting. I feel like I should have had a deal in ’97 or ’98 even though I wasn’t rhyming like that because I feel I’m from that cloth. I feel like there’s a whole generation of people that got into Hip Hop at that time, at a young age, who got cheated out of artists to come. They got on to Hip Hop, fell in love with it and it changed on them dramatically. And I feel like I’m for them. The thing I fell In love with in Hip Hop is skill and the fact that it stimulated my brain. It made me think, become conscious of the world around me. A tool to express elevation, to express progressive aggression I like to call it. There’s a whole nation of people that feel like me but the radio, tv and record labels are all turning their back on them. I know it’s by design and not by coincidence. If you ran a test I’m sure you would see that certain types of music lowers your intelligence level. If you take two young girls for five years and one listens to Lauryn Hill and this one listens to Nicki Minaj.
SUNEZ: Chris Rock fate–one’s on the pole.
SPIT GEMZ: She’s done and the one that listens to Lauryn Hill is gonna have a mind on her. There’s no way around it. That motivates me greatly. As far as where it leads me I’m not into it for fortune or fame. I’m with it from my heart. If I could make a living with it I’m content. Because I love to do it. I can’t stop. I’ve tried. It doesn’t shut off. It’s permanently on whether it be videos, photography, poetry, the rapping. This is what I do. I found what makes me happy in life. Its not materialism. It’s not fame. It’s just to be able to spread this type of music. So I’m gonna stick to my guns.