I got a chance to sit with the mighty Bronze Nazareth and talk about his new album “The Great Migration” on Babygrande/Think Differently Records. The newest Wu-Element shared his philosophies about making beats, writing rhymes, and finding inspiration in everything…even Jermaine Dupri.
Andrew Matson: People have been talking about you on the internet…
Bronze Nazareth: Yeah, definitely.
AM: Do you think the internet is helping your career?
BN: Definitely, man. Really, if it wasn’t for the internet, I would’ve had a much harder time getting my shit out. ‘Cause I had a album out in like ’98 called The Unknown, me and my brother, basically, and it was just sold on the internet, so I was selling copies to like Australia, Japan…so yeah the internet was a big part of my promotion.
AM: Do you think it helps rappers/artists have a more international focus?
BN: Yeah, I think so because in different regions people are in different stages. So some places might be in the early ’90s stage, so they might be looking for an early nineties vibe, more so than today’s real commercial vibe.
AM: Did you ever feel like you needed to get your music outside of Detroit, outside your neighborhood?
BN: Yeah. The internet helps you catch the people that will listen to your music, the crowd that WILL listen, as opposed to someone in my neighborhood that’s listening to somebody like the Ying Yang Twinz…see that wouldn’t be my crowd. Bu with the internet I can reach all the people that are looking for MY sound.
AM: Are you trying to make timeless music?
BN: Oh yeah that’s very true. I think quality overrules everything, so if it’s quality it’s going to have longevity.
AM: You’re not thinking about current trends at all?
BN: Yeah. I’m not worried about the radio, I’m not worried about anything except being natural. And by that I mean, I throw on a beat and whatever I feel, I do it. It’s not like I’m like “Oh I gotta make a song for the radio or I gotta make a song for the women.”
AM: What kind of influences do you draw on to naturally create?
BN: Oh, a lot of old school stuff. I remember growing up my dad used to listen to Stevie Wonder all the time. Teddy Pendergrass. And that was back when everything was played with real instruments. Everything was real. Everything was quality. Nowadays everything is straight keyboards, straight keyboard drums. Straight claps. All I use is…I mess with REAL drums. Basically my influences come from that. And of course early nineties hiphop. That’s my era. That was when I felt hiphop itself was genuine ’cause back then hiphop was like working with what you got. Everybody may not have had the big Triton keyboards, but we made beats with what we had, and that was where the sampling came in to play. Of course, Wu-Tang was definitely a big influence, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap…
AM: Is there more soul in a sample of a real instrument that a digital imitation?
BN: Oh definitely. It’s like, if you can play a violin, a real violin, it just sounds more natural, more rooted, more grounded than hitting a key on the key board. Basically what keyboards do is they just loop the same note, and it’s such a small loop that you can’t really tell, but it sounds fake. It doesn’t sound as authentic as when you’re actually playing a violin. And back in the day, they had the real stuff, they had a band or whatever to put the whole thing together and actually PLAY the stuff. So, keyboards try to emulate it but they just can’t quite measure up.
AM: What are some of the lyrics that you’re most proud of on “The Great Migration?”
BN: I’d probably say “Black Royalty.” Yeah, I mean with my lyrics, sometimes the delievery might fall by the wayside, not that it’s wack or anything, but it might fall by the wayside as opposed to what I’m actually saying. See, a lot of people get caught up in somebody’s delivery and they hear someone rhyme all these words together, but half the time they ain’t saying nothing. So my thing is to try and say something; I try and make every line rewindable, or every line something you can actually imagine or see in your head, as opposed to, “Oh, just let me string together a bunch of words that sound good.” I like to have a lot of meaning, so “Black Royalty,” to me, definitely has a lot of meaning. And then I tried to go crazy on “Poem Burial Ground.” It’s like I tried to rhyme everything. And at the same time, when I was trying to rhyme everything, I was still trying to say something. It’s like when I said, “My sinister stings glimmer like minister’s rings…” That’s something you can see, and at the same time, I’m rhyming as many words as I can.
AM: You basically make yourself into a cosmic being on “Black Royalty.” Where was your mind at when you were writing that song?
BN: I mean, that was like, I sat down and the beat took me there. That beat sounded royal to me. Sounded ABOVE the rest. So I’m like, “I think planets, speak mountains” ’cause everyone else is like, “I spit hot lines.” I’m just trying to go above the norm. I’m trying to put pictures in there and inject some substance. I’m trying to show people lyricism.
AM: Such a sick song. Can you talk about that beat?
BN: That beat is just one sample, but what I do is that I don’t just cut out a sample and loop it, I cut out a part from one minute and one second in the sample, and then maybe I’ll cut a part from three minutes and thirty three seconds and I’ll layer it all together and sometimes you got to change the pitch to make it all match, let the notes combine correctly. It’s all layered. Also, with that, I was saying I’m not just trying to throw some straight up drums on it ’cause that’s what’s SUPPOSED to go there. Yeah, I’m gonna put the 808 so it booms in the car, cause I know people feel that, but if you listen there’s some subtle, quiet bongos on there. I tease ’em with the drums, cause I try to do something where it’s original. It’s all different pieces. I don’t just take loops.
AM: The Great Migration isn’t like a bag of Doritos that you eat and throw away. It’s like a roast that you can eat off of for weeks. What albums do you like that have that kind of replay value where you, as a consumer, feel like you got a good deal by buying it?
BN: To name a few, I would say Goodie Mobb, “Soul Food.” When I first got that, I could listen to that straight through and forever; I listen to it today. Goodie Mobb is soulful. Ice Cube, “Death Certificate.” Prince Paul, “Prince Among Thieves.” Of course GZA, “Liquid Swords.” “Cuban Linx.” My Wu family definitely. It’s just making a classic album. Making an albumn that you can listen to. I mean a lot of people buy albums and then they say, “Damn, there’re only five songs on this I like,” and that’s where your money goes. Basically, when I do an album, I do it so I feel it. I just feel like I know there’s enough people out there that think like me, that feel like me.
AM: Are you a fan first and an artist second?
BN: Yeah. I couldn’t be an artist if I wasn’t a fan in the first place. If you’re a painter, an artist, any kind of artist, you gotta take influence from what other people are doing. But only the good parts of what they’re doing. Like, you can find a good part in a Jermaine Dupri song. There’s something good in there because people want it. And if you pull together all those different good parts and combine them into one, then you got something good that’s original.
AM: So you’re telling me that there’s something good about “Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It?”
BN: Well, I can’t go that far, not on that song. But I might say, oh they’re using high-hats a little differently in that beat. Oh, ok. But I wouldn’t bite that or anything, just be informed by it. It’s like you gotta stay updated, so I turn it on 106 and Park and see what everyone else is doing. I gotta stay up on the crowd these days as well as my fans.
AM: Do you make music for kids or adults?
BN: Definitely adults.
AM: Does having kids change what you think kids should be listening to?
BN: Yeah. I think so. Even with my album, I don’t even know if I want my daughter listening to my stuff, taking it in. Because you gotta understand the reason behind things like “and they won’t understand/ till I got a gun in hand/ on some ‘Yo nigga, run it like Cunningham.'” I’m saying that because that’s a feeling I had. When you’re down and out and you’re broke, that’s the feeling you have and I know a lot of people feel that. So for kids to listen to it, they gotta understand the feeling behind things. And they also gotta understand that everything ain’t for everybody. The things I’ve done are for other people to learn from, maybe kids and other people can learn from this. In my joint “Good Morning” I say “You can find hope around a plate of that coke.” What I’m saying is not ‘things will be better if you go sell coke,’ but I’m saying that if law enforcement or a judge would sit and live the life of a person that had to go that far, then, OK, maybe they’ll see WHY someone did that. They can see the reasoning behind that. Someone that never went through that might never understand that. Kids that don’t understand the reasoning behind that might think “Oh shit, well he said to go sell some coke cause there’s some hope in that.” That’s why my shit is for adults, know what I mean? I hope that people listening to my album don’t take things so literally. I hope they look for the meaning behind the meaning. I’m not trying to sounds like any of these other rappers. I’m trying to be original and fresh. I want people to listen to these lyrics, ’cause I have a lot of double meanings. For example, in “Stolen Van Gogh” I say, “you won’t understand in my line, it takes too much patience” and that’s like saying ‘you won’t understand what I’m saying cause you gotta sit there and think about it’ but on top of that I’m saying it’s like you’re standing in line, and people don’t want to wait too long cause they want it easy. It’s a double meaning. Back in the day, I used to be more scientific, so I figured out now that you got to say it where people can understand it but also has that meaning.
AM: I read something you said about simplifying your words but not simplifying your meaning, and that reminded my of something GZA said about half length, twice strong, or something like that…
BN: Exactly. That’ basically it. I think he said half short, twice strong. You can say something that sounds simple but has so many other meanings. And some people might not catch it, but it means a lot more.
AM: Out of Biggie and 2Pac and Pun you miss Pun the most?
BN: Yeah, defnintely . I love all of them, don’t get me wrong. But when I heard “Super Lyrical” by Pun, I was blown away. “I’m superlyrical with brain boostin chemicals, that juice and tentacles…” that’s lyrics. That’s missing now. We got to boost this game back up. Cause what is writing if you can just write anything? Yeah, Pun putting words together was nice. He was a skilled MC. I took influence from him on “Poem Burial Ground,” where I just tried to rhyme everything. Kool G Rap too, just trying to rhyme everything. Those rappers, it seemed like everything was just rhymed on one word, like if you start the flow you can’t stop till the whole thing is done. But it’s still got meaning.
AM: Anything else you want to say?
BN: I appreciate the RapReviews review. It makes me feel really good that people like the album. Go get it at your local store, if they don’t have it, tell them to order it, and I just really appreciate the response I’ve been getting. Thanks.