On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN were joined by M.O.P. (Mash Out Posse) for an extended conversation about their legacy and longevity in the rap game.
It all began when Eric “Billy Danze” Murray and Jamal “Lil Fame” Grinnage met as kids in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. In the early 1990s, they officially launched their joint career with records like “How About Some Hardcore?” The duo continued to build their discography with albums such as To the Death, Firing Squad and First Family 4 Life, which established them as forces in the underground rap circuit.
After nearly 10 years of putting in work and collaborating with other respected musicians like Gang Starr and JAY-Z, M.O.P. broke the mainstream seal with “Ante Up” in 2000. It emerged as a massive record that is now both a staple in hip hop and a go-to soundtrack for pop culture products across the world. Overall, the consensus among rap fans is that their legendary status isn’t up for debate.
In this interview of gems, Danze and Lil Fame broke it all down and summed up the most notable moments from their 30-year career. Nine major takeaways from the conversation can be found below and you can watch the full episode here.
1. On being signed to Loud Records in its heyday
M.O.P. was signed to Loud Records when a lot of other notable artists like Wu-Tang Clan, Big Pun and Mobb Deep were also on the label. While going down memory lane, they opened up about what that experience was like. “It was like being home on Loud Records because you had so many amazing artists making our kind of music… n**ga music. So you’re comfortable in that environment,” Fame said. “That was that friendly competition era that we were in,” Danze added. “It kept everybody on their A-game.”
2. On working with Hype Williams
One of the first music videos that famed director Hype Williams filmed was for M.O.P.’s “How About Some Hardcore?” in 1994. The original video was black and white, so when the duo ran into Williams in NYC, they offered to pay “a small bag of money” to get some color shots.
Looking back at what would later become a legendary moment, Danze said, “We had a dope time. It was the first [time] we ever did anything like this, anything positive.” Taking pride in the fact that M.O.P. gave the world a beautiful glimpse into the ugly place that raised them, he continued, “We stayed up all night because it was like, ‘What the f**k are we about to do? This is something different.’”
3. On their relationship with Guru from Gang Starr
M.O.P. made a lot of music with late rapper Guru and producer DJ Premier. They spoke at length about their relationship with the two, formally known as Gang Starr, and how it started. “It happened organically. They were fans of M.O.P.,” Danze revealed. “Premier had a radio show at the time. We went up there to do the radio show and then the first time we got in the studio was to do a remix to ‘How About Some Hardcore?’ which turned into the first ‘Downtown Swinga.’” The groups would later lace songs like “Who Got Gunz” and “Half and Half” with each other.
4. On Remy Ma bullying her way onto “Ante Up”
M.O.P.’s “Ante Up (Remix)” was released in 2000 and featured Busta Rhymes, Teflon and Remy Ma, who finessed her way onto the record. Billy Danze didn’t know that she would be on the song until her verse was already cut. “When I walk in the studio, it’s blaring. She’s sitting up on the top of the couch and s**t, sitting there bobbing to her s**t. I go play it back. S**t is fire though,” he remembered. “She bullied her way onto the record, basically. And I’m glad she bullied her way onto the record.”
M.O.P. revealed that Prodigy was supposed to be on the track’s remix as well. But the group cut his verse because he was taking shots at JAY-Z, and they didn’t want to involve themselves in the situation.
5. On being signed to G-Unit
M.O.P. opened up about what it was like to be signed to G-Unit in the mid-2000s. According to the duo, they loved how successful and put together the imprint was. But they also noted that being signed to G-Unit meant they inherited the good and bad associations of the collective. “We had to wear that s**t, too,” Fame noted as someone who rapped about dealing with haters and secondhand beef on 50 Cent’s “I’ll Whip Ya Head Boy (Remix).”
With that song in mind, Danze chimed in, “Thank you for saying that because a lot of people say that Fame was going at [The] Game. He was talking about every other n**ga that said, ‘G-Unot’ to him. It had nothing to do with Game.”
6. On being recruited by Roc-A-Fella Records
Coming up, M.O.P. was revered by a lot of people in the music industry who wanted to do business with them, such as Roc-A-Fella Records. Though they eventually signed a deal, there was a time when JAY-Z and Dame Dash were consistently told no, according to the duo.
“This was when the Roc was a pebble,” Danze recalled. “They [would] show up every other day [and say], ‘Yo, come rock with us, come rock with us.’” M.O.P. ultimately decided to go in another direction, but still remained cool with the members until officially inking a deal approximately one decade later.
7. On the greatest rappers of all time
When asked to choose between Kool G Rap and Rakim, Fame and Danze made their thoughts regarding the greatest rapper of all time known. “I want to say that Rakim, to me, is the best rapper ever. I don’t think we’ll ever find another one,” Danze insisted. “Rakim is the greatest rapper ever; that’s my opinion.”
Fame applauded that and added his two cents with, “I love them both for different reasons, bro. And they’re both my favorites, equally.”
8. On their brand of music
When Fame and Danze were asked if they had a preference between recording a song and performing it, they gave different answers. Fame spoke on the raw feeling of going into the booth with nothing and coming out with an amazing product, whereas his partner discussed how he always appreciated the energy received when reciting music live. That led to him explaining how a “commanding” approach defines the brand of their music. “If you listen to M.O.P. records, it’s almost like they’re designed for performing. And I don’t know if it’s something that we do consciously; it just kind of happens,” Danze added.
9. On being shouted out in “Warning” by The Notorious B.I.G.
In his 1994 hit “Warning,” The Notorious B.I.G. name-dropped Fame, who he grew up with in Brooklyn. “Remember them n**gas from the hill up in Brownsville/That you rolled dice with, smoked blunts and got nice with?/Yeah, my n**ga Fame up in Prospect/Nah, them my n**gas, nah, love, wouldn’t disrespect,” Biggie rapped on the song. Apparently, some people took the mention as a diss, considering the context of the track being about a set-up, while others took it as praise. For Fame, it was the latter. “It was all love. It’s not a true story, but it’s a beautiful story,” he told “Drink Champs.”
Fame also touched on his friendship with the deceased artist, having access to unheard collaborations between Biggie and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and how his death affected their home borough. “He was the biggest rap artist at the time that really had Brooklyn on his back,” Danze added.
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