You have to have patience to be a hip-hop fan. Our favorite rappers have a skill for leaving us in almost tatters and tears before giving us that elusive album (hey Dre, hurry yo ass up). For the loyal fan base of Ohio outfit MHz Legacy, it’s been a long, 14-year wait before they finally got their mits on the group’s self-titled debut album, which arrived this October.
As the old adage goes, though, good things come to those who wait. The former Def Jux (they now reside on the Man Bites Dog roster alongside Roc Marciano, Wais P and others) collective composed of Copywrite, Tage Future, RJD2 and Jakki Da Motamouth (and formerly Camu Tao, who tragically passed away in 2008 from lung cancer) treated listeners to a record ripe with high quality lyrics and prime production. It’s no surprise XXL praised the album with an XL rating.
As things have come full circle, we caught up with Copy and Tage, the two most prominent voices on the MHz Legacy LP, to discuss the making of the album in question, the impact Camu’s passing had on the group, and what was up with that rumoured Roc-A-Fella deal from way back when.
…it was like keeping this bottle of wine that you knew was going to be the shit no matter what you drink, and you’re like, “I’m looking forward to cracking this open.”
Copywrite: Yeah, we checked out the reviews. We’re happy with them, man. I feel like we got a good response.
Given how much the sound and culture of hip-hop has changed over these years, how did you approach the album differently to how you might have done so in the early days?
C: We made it just like we always do, man. We’ve been making music all the time, it’s not like we took a 10, 12-year gap and didn’t do any music. I put out two solos this year in addition to MHz Legacy, and me and Tage stay working.
Tage: No big trying to reinvent ourselves or anything like that, man. We do what we do, we like what we like and we know that other people like it, too, so we didn’t try to do anything out of ourselves. We just tried to be dope.
What would you say was the hardest challenge putting together a full-length album with that 14-year wait underpinning the whole thing, perhaps being the elephant in the room?
C: No, not at all, man. If anything, it was like keeping this bottle of wine that you knew was going to be the shit no matter what you drink, and you’re like, “I’m looking forward to cracking this open.” That’s basically what it was. We could have waited 10, 15 more years and it would have been that exciting because I’ve been waiting to make the album with these guys for the longest, man.
T: Yep, overdue. We’ve been wanting to drink the wine for a while but we’re glad we popped it.
C: Yo, cheers! [Laughs]
There’s some really impressive collaborations on the album–Blu, Danny Brown, Ill Bill, Slug and Harry Fraud, to name just a few. What was the selection process behind the features?
C: Man, we just had people on there that we thought we’d sound good with and who we were listening to. You know, we worked with Danny Brown and he’s a fan of Camu, so we felt like that made sense for “Spaceship.” As far as the Blu joint goes, Blu and us, in a way, rap to similar-type beats–real melody-driven things. It just all worked out like that. We wanted to get Oh No rapping [on the album] ’cause usually he’s known for making a beat, so we thought it’d be ill to get him on that !llmind beat and have him just spit. So yeah, we just tried to go a little different with it, man.
You’ve all sort of been doing your own thing these past few years. What made you reform as a group for a full-length?
T: We never really split up, but everybody did their own things because of life. I mean, I went to college down in Atlanta, Camu and Copywrite had gone up to New York–you know, we’re all from Columbus, Ohio–but we all kinda split up, and things just happened. It wasn’t like we broke up, I guess some of the momentum of the music kinda fizzled out at one point just because everyone was busy doing other things.
But like Copy said, it was something we all wanted to do, to put this album together. It just took us a little time to form back up and put this together–RJ included. He was in Columbus, too, but he moved up to Philly around the time when we all left.
C: Yeah, I think it just worked out and the timing was right for everybody. We started working on the album maybe two years ago, we started on one or two songs and then put it on hold, and then came back to it. And then we knocked it out in five months, so it only took us about five months to do it.
We really wanted a little bit more time, to be real, just because me, Tage and RJ are pretty much perfectionists. We were happy with it, we wouldn’t have put it out if we weren’t happy with it, you know, we weren’t just going to throw something out to meet a deadline. But you know, we can tweak and go back and add things all day. We’re really happy with it.
If you don’t mind me touching on the subject, can you describe the initial impact Camu’s passing had on the group?
C: I think it hit us as friends first. We had been friends since high school and it wasn’t like, “Oh damn, we lost a band member,” it was like, “Damn, man, I can’t believe this is happening to Tao.” Me, personally, I had patched up my differences with him long before he passed, I know that would have really messed with me. We had seen each other and we had spoken quite a few times.
I really thought he was going to beat it, man, I really did because he was always in high spirits, he was still himself and had so much life and personality like there was nothing wrong with him, even when there were drastic physical changes. I never really thought of it in the music terms, though, I just thought, “Damn, man, I just lost one of my closest homies.”
T: Same here. I guess I kinda echo Copy’s sentiments with that because when that happened it wasn’t like, “Oh no, Megahertz has lost a member”–he was our friend. Just like anybody who loses somebody who’s close to them, that hurts. Now as far as when we put the album together, though, of course we did a song that was dedicated to him. When we had put the project together and it was almost done, we felt it was only right that we do a song dedicating our friendship and our memories to him.
C: That was the only elephant in the room if anything–that we have to make this memorial joint. Like, if it was graffiti that would be the wall that we dedicated to him.
T: And also we kinda altered our name and added “Legacy” to it and that was partially because we are made up of the exact same crew as we were, except he’s no longer here with us in the physical.
Copyrite, I read that you were supposedly close to signing with Roc-A-Fella back in the day? Was that true? What happened here?
C: That was me, but those were just rumors. It was actually Just Blaze‘s Fort Knox label that was interested, not Roc-A-Fella. But yeah, that thing got out of hand, it was crazy.
Now there’s a lot of talk about New York going through a renaissance of rap right now, what with MCs like Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, Flatbush Zombies and so on. As guys who came up around that Rawkus/Def Jux era, what are your thoughts on the city’s new scene?
C: I like it, man. Dog, you know this is the Mecca man–without New York there would be no hip-hop at all, without Kool Herc and them messing around in the South Bronx. So it’s great. I hate to see the inventors not benefit or not shine, so it’s ill to me to see Joey Bada$$ and Action and all those other cats just holding the torch for New York.
And I like it when they sound like they’re from New York, so that’s real ill, too. I don’t want to hear New Yorkers sound like they’re from down south. Influence is influence, and that’s cool. Like A$AP Rocky is influenced by that and he’s cool, too. But I like seeing them stand up and take what they rightfully own a chunk of.
You’ve put out some really well-produced videos already. Do you have any more music videos or other promotional material from the album coming?
T: Actually one of the songs that features Blu, “Yellow and Blue,” we did a remix contest for the public, for any DJs or producers who wanted to put our a capellas on their own beat. As far as a remix, that was a little project that we wanted to do for people who were interested. We still have a couple videos from the album that we’re deciding when to drop, so stay tuned, we got a couple more.
And finally, can fans expect a sophomore album from MHz Legacy in the future?
T: We think.
C: Yeah, yeah, I’d like to another one, man.
T: Sometimes it’s tough to get a lot of people together when everybody’s doing their own thing. But if our schedules permit and everybody’s down to do it, then it’s gonna happen. So I guess we’ll say possibly. [Laughs]
C: Probably! [Laughs]
MHz Legacy is out now on iTunes via Man Bites Dog Records.