Boot Camp Clik's Buckshot

Boot Camp Clik's Buckshot
While they don’t have the high profile of the Wu-Tang Clan or the pioneering legacy of the Juice Crew, the Boot Camp Clik are arguably one of the must enduring crews in hip-hop history. Black Moon’s classic single "Who Got the Props” single from the acclaimed Enta Da Stage album featuring MC Buckshot’s rhymes laid the foundation for the later success of the Clik’s groups Heltah Skeltah, OGC and Smif N Wessun. Collectively, they released a slew of classic New York underground hip-hop material through the ’90s on the crew’s own Duck Down label imprint. Over a decade later, the Boot Camp Clik have recently released their fourth collective album and a new full-length from Smif N Wessun. With the enduring visibility of artists like Sean Price (aka Ruck of Heltah Skeltah) Buckhot’s own solo career and their expanding roster, the Boot Camp Clik and Duck Down look set to continue their defiantly independent hip-hop stance and relevance well into the future. Label CEO and MC Buckshot took time out from preparing for a Canadian tour to speak with Exclaim!

I know you come through this country quite a lot. What’s different about touring through Canada?
I love going places where they just enjoy the vibe of hip-hop and what hip-hop is and what it brings because it’s a very big culture. I am somebody who is a young seed in the scope of life and in the scope of hip-hop yet I’m somebody who has been around to see hip-hop’s beginnings. There’s a lot of people in this game that don’t talk like that. I’ve been around. I was born in ’74 and hip-hop started in ’78, so it’s like for me that was the very, very first start. But I still didn’t grasp. I never even knew about hip-hop until ’82 or like ‘83. Yet it was still very, very brand, brand new when I got to know hip-hop. So for me to know hip-hop today it’s gotta have an effect of me going, "Wow, a lot of these people don’t even have no fuckin’ clue what they’re doing. They’re just doing it because they grew up in a society where something existed already called hip-hop.” Canada is a spot where when you go there, you know you’re going to get a genuine hip-hop energy. Kids come out and enjoy their life.

The Boot Camp Clik have outlasted many crews of the same era. What would you attribute the longevity of the crew to?
I’ll give it to you real simple. People aren’t tired of Boot Camp because they haven’t gotten enough of Boot Camp. They’re not finished with Boot Camp because they haven’t really started with Boot Camp. It’s like, we haven’t been overexposed. People never got really enough of us to have to be finished with us. We were always the crew that came in hit their mark and [did] what we had to do and then there was always something else, another distraction. But I think loyalty plays a part in that. And I think that intelligence plays a part in that. I pride myself in taking the smart MC approach. There’s a lot of rappers that want to be fly. A lot of rappers want to be gangsta. I just want to be the smartest MC. I want to show and prove that I’m the smartest MC.

Boot Camp Clik have been independent the whole time. What’s the difference between being independent then and being independent now?
There really is no difference. It’s just an illusion. I had a person on the phone with me just now talking about, "Yo, I got this album. I just wanted to talk to you, Buck. I know you haven’t worked with me before but I’m just trying to do a distribution deal.” And I’m like, "Yo, why are you talking to me about a distribution deal when I can tell that you don’t know the first thing about running a fuckin’ company or a label.” I’m like, "Here’s what you do. Get a one-off, or go get a deal, try to get that project signed.” People think that independent is slapping the artwork together, getting a YouTube video, making a demo and getting a release date for an album that has no deal and calling it independent. And just because they’re running around with a CD that they can make in their crib they’re like, "Yeah, I got my own independent label.” That’s not what we meant by this. This is still a business. And for us to run it for so long shows you that a lot of people thought this was easy and were like, "You know what? I’m gonna do what Buckshot did. I’m gonna just get my own label, call it my own name and try to hire my own staff.” Man, this independent shit is hard.

You mentioned the internet. With the latest Smif N Wessun album a lot of videos for album tracks have hit the web around the release date and Sean Price is using MySpace to collaborate with people. How important is that strategy for Boot Camp?
We kinda always saw that early and I think that’s a very big strategy and we kinda got the wind of that early, because again you can be humble, but at the same time you can be lost in the jungle. So you gotta have the tiger in you. We’ve been doing duckdown.com, we’ve been saying duckdown.com. We were doing that in the era where people were laughing at us and telling us there’s no way in hell that we’re going to supersede the real world in as far as entertaining with the music. "No way. People are always going to go to Tower Records and buy CDs.” And with internet access we have worldwide access. You’re not only interested in around the way; you have access to people in countries and places you would never get to. And therefore they link up with each other and it’s only going to increase. I’m not an egotistical person but I will claim my titles and I remember how we used to joke around calling Buckshot the dot-com don and now I’m starting to see this dot com world for real, for real now.

You guys seem to have incorporated that global market with working with a lot of foreign artists. The new Smif N Wessun album is done with a Swedish producer and the Boot Camp Clik works with producers from Toronto like MoSS and Marco Polo….
Yes, sir. Two of the greatest producers in hip-hop: Marco Polo and MoSS. I mean two of the greatest hip-hop producers period. And when I say stuff like that, they’re going down in history, okay.

But you guys are so associated with Brooklyn. Why are you not sticking to working with American artists?
Because that’s the type of people we are. That’s how we are in Boot Camp. That’s our personality. So in hip-hop you get a chance to see all types of people’s attitudes and peoples’ personalities. And some people grow up with the mentality of that I’m gonna do what I saw. Boot Camp is the ones that changed history; we’re going to say we do what we feel. So right when everyone is gonna front on Canadian MCs and Canadian producers just because they’re from Canada and they’re not from around the way, here comes Boot Camp and Duck Down… Check this out. We just signed a Canadian hip-hop artist named Promise.

I’ve heard of him. He had a joint called "Outside”
Yeah. He’s a good MC. We hired him. And you know Marco Polo is officially a Duck Down producer affiliate. He’s working on KRS-One’s album for us right now. He’s working on a few things that we got. We got a few projects that we got that Marco’s helping us out with. And MoSS in the same way.

I understand you’re working on a new solo project called The Formula…
The Formula is coming hard body. The Formula is hard body. I’m not even going to lie to you on that one. It’s not even an ego thing again. The Formula is a very good album because 9th (Wonder) is in a really good position. And it’s not about 9th giving me beats and being a good producer because he knows how to give me good beats. He’s a good producer, he knows how to work with me in the joint to create good projects. And that’s what a good producer is, not just a good beat maker but sometimes I may say this line and he’ll go, "Do it the way…” and I’ll be like "Let me try that.” I’ll try that and we’ll listen to it and we’ll go like, "Yo, you know what? This came out dope.”

On Chemistry, your last album with 9th Wonder, you had some of your most reflective material, where you were really talking about some issues. Can we expect more of that on this new record?
You can expect to see a lot of that. I took that to a whole other level. (Chemistry’s) "Now A Dayz” was the song on there where I talk about how it used to be fist fights and we don’t do that no more and there’s so many mothers and daughters of people that have gone because of that just because nobody wants to get their ass whupped. That theory is wack. There’s a lot of songs on The Formula that’s gonna kill ’em from that point of view. And I just shot a video for The Formula the other day for the first single and it’s called "No Doubt,” and it’s featuring Buckshot and Charlie Murphy. Charlie is my dude and then I got me and (Talib) Kweli also did a song together also. So me and Talib is gonna tear it down. Me and him, we really go back, we’re really, really close friends so it’s bigger than that.

So we’re looking sometime early next year probably for that project?
Yeah. March 3rd is the release date.

Right now you’re talking about a date that’s far and away but you’re not saying March. You’re saying March 3rd. Which is interesting because you have had to balance creativity and the business aspect. And there were a couple of years where you guys weren’t as visible —
We had a lot of problems in that era. We were at a point where Duck Down was almost going to shut down.

How did you overcome all of that?
Through the grace of faith. I’m gonna be honest with you man. I don’t try to keep it a spiritual thing but I’ll be honest with you man. I love (co-Duck Down founder) Dru Ha with all my heart and I think we are tested at a lot of different times. There was a time when Duck Down, we had release date schedules and then we got dropped. So we had no deal, we were owing money unrightfully so. We had to go in our personal stash – and this is something that I’m telling you that nobody knows. We had to go in our personal stash and pay off the label that we owed. We had to literally go in our bank accounts, pockets and you know go "Here!” We forked well over $50,000 and that was just to get off the label. And now imagine us off the label (having) just broke off that off our bread and [we’re at] a point like, "Well, we can either keep going or we can just cut our losses right now and bail out with what we got at Duck Down.” Dru Ha was like, "Man fuck that.” But just thinking from [my] point of view, [I] was like "You know what? You’re going to have to kill me. You’re going to have to kill me to take away everything that I’ve worked so hard for throughout the years.”

What does the future for Duck Down hold? I heard you just did a music deal with ESPN?

We don’t only have ESPN. We have The History Channel. It’s hard to be who I am. I’m a humble person I’m not egotistical at all. But when you put in so much work and you put in so much grind, certain things start to happen like ESPN, this whole season (of men’s college basketball). The History Channel, the same thing for their urban stuff. We’re starting up Duck Down television. It’s gonna have everybody you can imagine as far as like the struggles. It’s gonna be crazy. It’s gonna be interesting. More or less the future of Duck Down Records is gonna be now we’re about to bring hip-hop to a whole new level. We have Diamond D signed. We got KRS-One signed. We got Heltah Skeltah signed, Smif N Wessun. Boot Camp, we got Promise, we got DJ Revolution, we got Kidz in the Hall, we got Special Teamz and we got a few more surprises that we’re gonna pop up with in 2-8 with, but all the ones I mentioned to you are signed, sealed and delivered. We’re bringing everybody with us, man. One union, one nation.