The New York premiere of Ice-T's documentary, The Art of Rap, brought out MCs from across the generations. From Chuck D and Crazy Legs to Naughty by Nature's Treach and Wu-Tang's Raekwon and Fabolous, the stars supported one of their legends. The Root was on the scene to capture a few exclusive comments from the event's attendees.
"For a while, people weren't taking enough time [to write]. With some of these tremendous beats, you can basically sh— on a track and sound good. But in the last two years, the spitters, like Cory Gunz, Kendrick Lamar, are starting to come back. That's all real hip-hoppers want, for [the newcomers] to respect the culture and try your best. If there's more words in the hook than in the rap, you're not rapping, you're hooking. Rap can rock a party, but it can also change the world."
"My boy Ice-T did the documentary, and a lot of my friends are in it. I'm really interested in what Grandmaster Caz has to say because he's always informative and entertaining. He can make a story sound better than it is."
"Rakim [influenced me]. He had a lot of lyrics and he was intelligent. He made rhyming fundamental, like reading. When he started spitting, it was like, 'Wow, where'd he get this word play?' But it was intelligent, and I wanted to hear something that made a lot of sense to me and had a lot to do with science and being a smart guy."
Michael K. Williams
"[Rap is a] science, because it's not as easy as it looks. When you see how brothers put together metaphors to create stories, you have to break down the dialogue. Sometimes I've got to get a dictionary to define what Jay-Z or Nas are talking about in their lyrics — that's knowledge."
"[The Art of Rap is] the ground rules; it'll teach you. They can see this, get their basics and go from there."
"Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Rakim — those are my three favorites. They were ahead of their time; they used multisyllabic words. Big Daddy Kane had stylish, braggadocious raps. He became the star rapper at the time — he was hanging out with Madonna."
"With Naughty by Nature, [my favorite memory is] traveling the world and seeing people that don't even speak English but know every word to your record, and putting you on a level that you never thought you'd be."
The Root: Why'd you love some of your favorites, like Lauryn Hill, T La Rock and Pharoahe Monch?
"There was a science to their skill, and they knew when to jump in the pocket of the rap. They didn't keep the same beat or pattern all the time, and they utilized words really well."
"[Writing lyrics] is definitely an art form because it takes talent to go from putting words together that rhyme to putting together words that rhyme and tell a story and mean something. Rhyming words isn't as difficult as people might think, but rhyming words that are worth being said at the same time — that takes skill."
"I went to school with Kay Gee [of the Cold Crush Brothers], and he was the first rapper, so I grew up on Cold Crush and Grandmaster Caz. They were a group that had routines before records."