When it comes to Smilez & Southstar the one question on everybody’s mind has been “what happened to those two?” The Orlando, Florida, duo seemed to be on the fast track to Hip-Hop superstardom when their first album, “Crash The Party,” featured two hit singles, “Who Want This” and the massively popular “Tell Me.” Trains sometimes get derailed, however, and that was exactly the case with Smilez & Southstar. Recently the duo sat down with us at RapReviews to discuss what happened and why they feel they’re back on track now.
Adam Bernard: Talk to me man, what’s going on? You’ve got a new album coming out, tell me about it.
Smilez: We’ve been working on this for the last three years. It’s a real personal album and we hand picked the songs that are on the album, so that’s our first move right now. We just shot a video in Orlando, the video should be out soon, so that’s it. We’re just trying to push the new single, “All You Know” featuring Trill.
AB: Are you going to get the same girls of equal beauty and, ahem, talent that were in your previous videos?
Southstar: C’mon man you know nothing’s changed over here baby!
AB: That one video, “Tell Me,” made me want to go to Orlando.
SSr: And they’re still lookin like that over here in Orlando.
AB: Why did you wait three years in-between albums?
SSr: Groups like Field Mob just came back out and their last album came out around the same time our album came out. Mario, his first album came out around the same time and he just released his second last year. In my opinion, three years, yeah it seems long but it’s really not that long. Plus we’ve gone through a lot of situations in-between that kind of restricted us from being able to drop an album. In the meantime we’ve been patient, just watching the game, just waiting for the right time to come back and we feel like this is the right time, we got the right records, we’re excited about the label we’re on, they’re fully behind us and we’re ready to get it going man.
AB: Tell me about some of the situations you encountered that limited you.
SMz: Basically the first label, Artist Direct, they went bankrupt so we had to get off that label, but we weren’t going to get off without our masters so we had to go into court, fight for that and we got our masters back so everything is lovely. Now we’re back on the grind and we ain’t gonna take three years no more, trust me, we’re tryin to drop every summer. We want to stay in that public eye.
SSr: And with the first album, man, when it came out we were brand new artists. First album meant the first time experiencing everything; going on the road, doing the radio interviews. Just getting on the radio got us excited like wow they’re actually interviewing us on the radio, it’s something we had been dreaming out for all the years we had been doing music. This time around we’ve learned that part of it. Going through the whole process of releasing an album and doing everything one time, we kind of understand that we should get a little more focused on our business and keep feeding the people music and take advantage of the time while we have it. I think we appreciate having that hit record out there and appreciating the fact that when it’s out there let’s take advantage of the situation. We ain’t goin nowhere this time.
AB: With the hiatus is there any worry that with the fickle Hip-Hop fanbase that can forget about an artist after six months people will be like “Smilez and Southstar? I thought they died.”
SMz: Nah man we don’t worry about that. Everywhere that we go, we still travel to LA, Houston, New York and everybody always come up to us asking “yo when’s the next album? We need that, we need that!” In Orlando they always come to us like “yo you need to keep reppin Orlando, man.” Everybody still knows us in the industry and on the street so we really just gotta drop and drop something hot like we did last time.
SSr: You know how you said some people will be like “wow, I thought they died,” the key is the fact that they even remember who we are. If they didn’t ask “oh I thought they were gone,” or “oh I thought they were done” that means they forgot about us and that’s worse. Everybody’s curious. Some people might be like “I thought they were gone, I thought they were done,” and it’s up to us to really prove different and we feel 100, 200% confident about this album. We’ve had a lot of time to prepare for it, we recorded over 60-75 songs for this album and we’ve taken the best 15 songs to put on the album, compared to the first album, Crash The Party, where we basically put it all together within about four months. So the three years, I think it really has helped us mature and artists and develop. Now it’s just up to us to prove why we do belong and why we are back and I think we’re gonna do that.
AB: What are some of the ways you’re gonna get out there and prove you are back, you are for real and it wasn’t just one hit?
SMz: Just go on tour and let people see our faces again, just really get back on that grind because we’ve been dying to get back on the road. We’re also heavy on MySpace. myspace.com/smilezandsouthstar.
SSr: I think at the end of the day the music is gonna speak for itself.
AB: Orlando is really blowing up because I’m getting vinyl from quite a few artists out there. How has the Orlando scene changed from when you first came out and how much of that do you feel is your influence?
SSr: Obviously the city’s grown. I think we’re getting a couple hundred thousand people who move here every year. Real estate is up so that’s a sign that a lot of people are moving here. That helps the scene when there’s more people in the city compared to when we started eight, nine years ago where there wasn’t too many outlets, there were only a few hundred thousand people that lived here and it wasn’t making that big of an impact. Do I think we had a major role in it? I think we played our part, I’m not gonna stand here and say that it was just us, I think a lot of people had to do with it. We now have two Hip-Hop stations and a reggaeton station that plays some Spanish Hip-Hop. The scene is growing, man. Florida, to me, is kinda like what Texas was last year. I think Florida is next. Miami is doing really well right now and with us coming back out there are a lot of groups out here in Orlando making noise, Tampa’s making some noise. I just think Florida as a whole has a lot of talent and I feel like it’s our turn to shine. You’ve gotta come party in our state.
AB: So what’s the name of your label now and how does it differ, other than not being bankrupt, from Artist Direct?
SMz: We’re Trans-Con Records. The difference is Artist Direct was in LA so it wasn’t easy to go out there and talk to the people and find out about our record, but Trans-Con is based in Orlando, right downtown so we can always come up here, talk to them, see how the record’s doing, just keep things moving and make more decisions. That’s the biggest difference right there. Plus we’ve been knowing these guys for years so we can grab they balls if they act up.
AB: So what are you real hopes this time around? What do you hope you get out of all this?
SSr: Honestly, we don’t do music or drop albums and be like yo I hope we sell 10 million albums. Obviously we hope the album does well and is successful and the people just accept us. I think at the end of the day there are a lot of artists that come out and say they’re gonna sell 500,000 records where I think me and Smilez, when you hear this album and listen to the first album you’re gonna see the difference. We’re a lot more involved with the whole process with this album. Marketing ideas, the whole recording process, selecting the beats, writing the music, coming up with the concepts for the songs, it’s real personal and we wanted to let it all out and lay it all out on the line and talk about our experiences. I think a lot of those experiences that we talked about the people out there are gonna relate. We’ve got a song on the album called “Dear Dad,” which is basically like a letter to our pops, me and Smilez both grew up with our moms and we never had the opportunity to sit down with our pops and let him know all the things that we thought about these last 20 or so years. The song “Lord Oh Lord” that says no matter what we’re doing, whether it’s right or wrong, what we go through, we know that God is above watching us and guiding us and if we’re doing something wrong it’s probably God that wants us to do that to learn from that. There are records like that on the album, of course we’ve gotta do the songs for the ladies, “Tell Me” was big for us so we can’t forget about them, a lot of club joints.
SMz: This album right here is gonna catapult us to other things because we can’t be rapping forever, until we’re like 50, 60 years old. We want to use it as a stepping stone to go and do different things, open up business in Orlando. That’s the major goal, not selling a million records, even though that would help.
AB: So it sounds to me like your ultimate goal is to become entrepreneurs and hiring your people.
SSr: I think that our ultimate goal is just making sure that our families are good, because both of us got kids, I think that’s one of the biggest changes in both our lives, having our sons. It’s almost like everything I do now is just for him. When I wake up in the morning and look at him I just be like alright, I gotta go out and do this right here. So ultimately it ain’t about the fame. Of course the fame is cool, the money’s good, it’s cool to have it, but at the end of the day your family’s gotta be right. It’s all for our family.
AB: Let’s say five to ten years from now you’ve opened some businesses, are you going to go back and tell people how you did it?
SSr: I mean of course, definitely. We’re gonna have people where we go, they’re gonna be able to see the stories and we got people like you that’ll write about us to let ‘em know what we’re doing. So hopefully somebody can see us and see us and see how we came up and what we did and they can go ahead and want to do that for their family.
SMz: And we just want our little percentage. *laughs*