posted: 07-31-04
interview : tadah
photos: trevor traynor © 2004 all rights reserved
Okay, please introduce yourself.
What the dealy peoples?! This is L.i.f.e. Long. Stronghold#1 repping N.Y.
Oh, # 1 is it? How much of a bare fist knuckle fight was there about who's going to be # 1?
(laughs) It wasn't even like that! No struggle. Each member's number fits their personality.
Remember Stronghold is a fist, so each number represents a finger. I am number #1 the thumb! I am the thumb because I stand out a little bit more then the other member's style wise; like the expression "stand out like a sore thumb". Breez is number #4 - the ring finger - because he is like the CEO. Being that Stronghold was his idea!
As you said: you're a member of Stronghold. Please introduce us to that too.
Stronghold!!! No doubt! That's my Family right there. We have been a crew for about eight years now. We are a force to be wrecking with: check our discography's and our bios for our movements in the game. Peace to all the members of the Stronghold and check for mad Stronghold material coming your way in a hot minute!
So just for the record, let us run through the other numbers of the fist.
Okay, you got myself #1 the thumb; #2 Stelf Index the pointer, the trigger finger; the index finger, #3 Mr. F.U. Man, the middle finger Poisonous Maximus, Poison Pen; #4, the ring finger, the C.E.O. Breez Evahflowin; #5, the pinky finger always shining: The Sun Cycle C-Rayz Walz. That's the first hand - the original 5!
Then we started the next hand, setting it off: Wiz #6, Mic Terro #7, DJ Static #8, Immortal Technique #9 and Swave Sevah - Cvees - #10.
And there's mad affiliates!
So where are you from? You gotta rep your hood, as in neighborhood.
I grew up in Jamaica Queens NY, in a place called Cambria Heights! Not too far from where Tribe Called Quest was repping from! I now reside in Brooklyn a.k.a. Brooknam. However I rep New York in a whole though!
How is life there?
An everyday struggle to maintain! Peep the cut "Recession" on my album "Strugglers Paradise" to get the vibe of NY. Also the cut "Fall Back" and "Pimp the System". I always try to let my listeners hear how life is in NY.
Does it puzzle you why someone would want to come to NY as a tourist? Or do you see the beauty in the city too?
It doesn't really puzzle me. If I didn't liver in NY I would like to visit here too. Although NY has its share of problems like any other city, it still is a great place and we do offer a lot of things that other city's do not offer.
Like what?
Were open 24 hours: Resturaunts, subway, bus, clubs. Whatever you want, we got it 24 hours! "The city that never sleeps"! "If you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere"!
What do we need to know about you?
That I am making music for the people. That my mission is to communicate and educate through music. My name L.i.f.e. is an acronym for 'Living in full effect'; the Long is for 'Leading on new grounds.'
I am repping for a culture that has existed for over thirty years. And despite people saying that the culture is dead I feel that it is a pleasure to be chosen to hold the torch that has been passed down from the originators like Africa Bambatta, Kool Herc, Grandmaster Caz, etc. Through my experiences with this game, I have learned the correct tactics to travel through this hip-hop maze.
What would you like to tell us about you, that we probably don't care to know? (smile)
(Laugh) Funny! I am a regular person with regular wants and needs! Don't get it twisted just because we repping this hip-hop, we still have regular responsibilities. So I want people to know that L.i.f.e. Long is on some grown man shit! Musically and personally, just trying to show these kids the right way!
Any other fun facts about you?
I love to sky dive and jump off of cliffs! (laugh) I'm a lover of Canibus. Not the emcee; although son be saying some shit! But the one you can burn, wear, and what the Decleration of Independence was written on! Legalize it!
There is a mixtape about to drop right? Tell us about it.
No doubt! Stronghold my crew will be dropping their sophomore mixtape release!
It has thirty bangers on there, including guest appearances, exclusives and music by some of our newest members and affiliates! It's definitely fire. Cop that when it drops. It's worth the cash!
Tell us what you hope we will get out of that record!
Real hip-hop: no additives or preservatives. We want the people to see where Stronghold is at right now and to get the people prepared for the album that will be out soon! Remember this is only a mixtape.
Stronghold are so many people. And you also mention affiliates. How can you even work with so many people at the same time?
Hey, I'm an artist and that is what we do: collaborate. Plus we on some shit like the Wu: we a huge unit, working on breaking down this industry's doors with mad crew!! Strength in Numbers!!
Who are the official Stronghold affiliates?
So many to name all. But shout out to affiliates like Diabolic, Kapitol, Black Panther, Brooklyn Academy, The Plague, E.O.W., Loer Velocity, Cvees, Emveez, Akrobatik, Weathermen, Demigods, Atom's Fam. So many. We got mad crew in N.Y.
Anything else coming after that?
My album released on Ascetic Music - a label based in France. And a lot more music from members of the Stronghold to be announced! We stay in the lab so we got mad music coming your way!
Tell us a little more about the album.
It's going to be hot fresh concepts, ill collabo's, refreshing beats a lot of that original boom-bap flavor.
And maybe a little more specific (smile). Give us some little exclusive info on the album…names, lines, whatever. (smile)
(laughs) Never. You will never get it out of me! I will remain silent until time! However this is some of my best work and I worked with some very interesting people on this project.
Now, moving on to your history: how did you get in this lil' culture we call hip-hop?
As a kid I use to listen to Marley Marl, Red Alert, they were playing everything at that time from Run-D.M.C. to Kane to Dana Dane to Slick Rick to EPMD to KRS, Salt-N-Pepa, Jungle Brothers; it was a incredible movement at that time in the early eighties. So I guess I was just embraced by the culture and continued to move with it.
What is it about this culture that influences and inspires you?
Everything from the music, the way of dress, the way we talk, dance, move! I just wish things were a little bit organized and not divided.
I remember when Hip-hop had mad different styles and genres. I mean, you see how who is on top of the game and who's not. Back in the earlier years of hip-hop, the culture was about originality. I feel now it's about who sounds like who and everybody follows what everyone else is doing.
Do you think hip hop would have the same attraction to you, if you'd get introduced to it today?
Probably, because I am a music lover. So I would still be into it. I just wonder which direction I would be headed towards.
What had you start participating, rather than just watching and listening?
It was natural I guess; me being heavenly involved in the culture. It sparked me to want to do something rather then just listen. I first started off as a B-boy, popping and breakin' at talent shows. And then I wrote my first rhyme at age ten and it was on from there.
If you weren't an artist what other job would you like to have?
I went to college to study journalism, so I guess a journalist. Although as an emcee, your a reporter for the hood. So I guess I'm doing that. If not a journalist, I think I would want to have some type of career in music, whether a manager, publicist, promoter etc.
Can you write a rhyme about everything that a journalist could write an article about?
I have a song actually with Loer Velocity - my partner from the group Writers Guild - about us being Journalists and getting kidnapped. Its on some next shit!!
Where will that song appear?
On the Writers Guild album. It's called "Front Page". Hopefully it will be out soon. Our project is basically done, but we are mainly focusing on our solo careers right now.
Now, as you are an artists, do you nevertheless have to do a 9-5?
I work a 9-5 now. I'm working to make that transition into a full time artist now. I know I have a lot of work ahead of me!
I always feel like that this is always a very 'touchy' subject to ask an independent / underground artist. Kinda like they don't want to admit that they work a 9-5. Why do you think that could be?
Hey, I feel that music is music and an artist is an artist - whether independent or mainstream. We first of all need to stop dividing the two. Because that is why independent artists are put in to this underground category.
As for a 9-5: it shouldn't be a touchy subject if that's how you maintaining yourself while doing music. Hey, I work a 9-5 because I have responsibilities that I can't manage with what I make off my music yet. I'm working to make that transition into a full time artist, but hey that's a 9-5. So I don't mind admitting that I handle my responsibilities.
What'd be better - or worse for that matter: to really make it, have a ton of global success, but then fall off and work at Micky D's? Or never make it and work at a fancy restaurant?
I'm not even thinking on those lines. I was blessed with the passion to write and record music. So even if I don't have monetary success I still will be a success in fulfilling the talents that Jah gave me. And that is to put out music as an appreciation to what Jah has blessed me with!
Who would you like to work with the most? Dead or living or in between? Why?
Hmmmmm! Lets see. For the deceased soldiers - R.I.P. - I would have loved to work with Jam Master Jay, Biggie, Tupac, Big L, Poetic and my man who was a dope emcee from N.Y. Optimus Rhyme (R.I.P.).
As for artists still with us, KRS, Ras Kass, Prince Po - I did something with Pharohe Monche: check me on the Anti Pop Consortium's first album "Tragic Epilogue" on the song "What Am I". Also Planet Asia, Mood, Roots Manuva, Dana Dane, Wu-Tang… the list goes on!
On the new album dropping on Ascetic I worked with someone that I really wanted to work with. Check the song "Skrypt Keepahs" on the new album and you'll see who!
File sharing on the internet: I do it too, or I'll do you if you do it?
Hey everybody wants a sneak preview. It's a problem when all cats do is share files and download and not support the artists. Especially the independent artists, because we have to sell records to eat. We don't get million dollar advances like some of these puppets in the game right now!
What was the last album/showcase/experience that had you go: man, I better step up before I step out with something again?
This game is very competitive, so as an artist, sometimes you might always feel pressured by another artist. There are a lot of things that make me want to step it up. I try not to focus on the next man's shine. However when Organized Konfusion was still together, their albums always inspired me to write. The same with De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest!
Souls of Mischief's first album too: "93 'Til Infinity" was the joint! Actually I was at this club in NY called the Palladium which was legendary for hip-hop shows. Before it was closed, I celebrated New Years Eve '93 watching Souls Of Mischief, De La and Tribe live! That show right there definitely made me go home and write!
What do you really enjoy listening to right now?
There's so much music that I'm feeling right now, mainly independent and old school joints. I can't really say, but Jay-Z's "The Black Album" is in heavy rotation. Can't forget about Nas' "God Son"!
When you hang up your superhero artist cape, what else do you do for fun?
I spend a lot of time with my Queen and her son! I'm a family man! I love movies so I stay watching DVD's. I like to read, travel, amusement parks, video games! And learning! I love to burn, so when I'm in your town be prepared to roll up!
We talked about this before, but now more in general. State of Hip-hop: good or bad?
I feel both good and bad! It's good that hip-hop has a history and is a multi-million dollar business! However, being that it has been exploited, I feel artists have lost their respect for the culture!
Can you as an artist, bring back that respect. Or are you preaching to the choir with the people you reach?
I'm working on bringing back that respect and original sound! However I feel whenever consciousness comes into play, the negative will always feel like you are preaching.
What do you want to achieve before you retire?
Worldwide respect like any other artist. Plus to have helped to make a difference in the music!
You must have a website, right?
You can check out poisonpensite.com for the Stronghold forum and ascetic-music.com for sound clips on the new LP, dropping soon. You know y'all at Urban Smarts will be one of the first to receive that! My website is still in developmental stages right now!
Comments or shout outs?
To my fellow artists: remember, whether you like it or not, you're a role model. So remember that Music is also a tool to educate. We should think about having more messages in our music for the youth to build from!
Shout out to my Stronghold Fam, K@Kindred Relations, M.F. Grimm and Azar at DaybyDay, Iomos Marad, 2,4,5 , Loer Velocity, Black Panther, Conspicuous from the Colony out in London, Ese and Hipsta over at Embedded, Mista Sinista, U.G. from the Cella Dwellas, Mike-O and Donan Links, Kayode, Mike Ladd, Jan Simon over at Juice mag in Germany. I got so many people to shout! Selassie I the First RastafarI, Jah Guidance to All my people in the Struggle! One Love!
For all those that can't wait for the new album to drop, there's always still "Struggler's Paradise". And that's in stores now, and reviewed here.
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