Buckshot: Formula for Success

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Back in 1992, BK crew Black Moon released their insta-classic debut single "Who Got Da Props?" and the world would never be the same. Their first album Enta Da Stage dropped the following year, cementing their status as hip-hop icons. Part of the larger Boot Camp Clik collective, they also helped birth the careers of Da Beatminerz, Smif-N-Wessun, Heltah Skeltah, and O.G.C.

In 1995, Buckshot and Dru Ha founded their own label, Duck Down Records, which has weathered through every industry trend from G-Funk through G Unit. When other indies were dying off, they remained strong. When other New York rappers started biting the South, they stayed true to their city. And now, when even the megabudget superstars are struggling to go gold, they are bigger than ever, signing acts both new and old and making serious power moves with Fortune 500 companies.

Whether you're a longtime follower or have never heard of him, if you're an indie artist or simply a fan, Buck drops a ton of knowledge in our exclusive interview. Read on...

Hey Buckshot, how are you doing? You down for this interview? Let's do it. You've got the new album. It's dropping soon, second full-album collabo with 9th Wonder. What can you tell us about it? How does it differ from the last one? Anything different? Yeah, I mean, people when they hear it, they're going to judge for themselves. If they didn't hear the first album, then, obviously that's going to make a difference as far as them having that type of impact. But when they get it, I'm confident to say, when they do put it on they're going to go, "This is a good album." And this album is dedicated to just being able to play an album straight through and that's it. Right on, man. And now in terms of putting it together and recording it, did you go out to North Carolina, or did 9th come out to New York, or how did that work in the studio? I flew out to North Carolina to do the album. I went out there by myself, got with 9th, we did it on the campus of NCCU. So I went out there and knocked it out, man. And it was good because, again, I was there by myself and I was in a whole other...a zone of just getting the album done. We did it quick, you know what I'm saying, because it was really natural. I heard the beats and I put my vocals to it. That's what's up. Now the fact that you guys had done a whole album together before, did that make it easier in terms of just you knew what to expect with him in the studio? No. No, no, no. Was that more challenging because you were trying to top it or what? Yep. And it wasn't really trying to top it, it's just that we have sort of like an understanding. We don't change nothing. What we do is evolve. So 9th and myself, neither one of us are coming to the table trying to experiment, you know? We just... We do have a natural chemistry. So, it's not rocket science. 9th plays the music. I listen to the music. And because it's his beats, you never know what he's going to come up with, so you can't estimate 9th and say, "Oh, I know what he's going to come with," because you can't, you know? He's always changing? Mm-hmm, he's always changing it. Cool. So obviously, this album's coming out soon. But in addition to your record, there's a lot of big things on deck for Duck Down. You've been signing new artists. You've got Kidz in the Hall, their joint coming out. You're also doing a record with KRS, right? Yeah. Can you give me some details on that? You know, I think everybody...if you go to YouTube, YouTube/Duck Down, they'll be able to see. They be hearing about it or feeling it, see it, you know, listening... They'll be able to hear it and get an actual sample of what the album's going to be like if you go to YouTube slash KRS-One and Buckshot, and Conflosations is the name of the project so far. And it's really, really, really, really, really, really good.

And I think it made KRS-One step his game up, made me step my game up because we were working with each other. And neither one of us wanted to get in that booth and not be up to par with the other, you know what I'm saying? And it's not easy to keep up with KRS-One. And he expressed the same thing to me, but you know, obviously I want to feel different and he's going to feel different about--we're going to both feel different, you know what I mean? But the public's perception of us working together is a different thing. So I'm glad that the public got a different perception.
That's going to be huge, man. A lot of people are looking forward to that as well. Who are you working with in terms of producers for that project? The whole squad. The whole squad. We've got everybody from Beatminerz putting their stuff down. But mainly the killer squad. I mean MoSS, Illmind, Khrysis, 9th Wonder, Black Milk, you know what I'm saying? That's a solid team right there. Yeah, yeah, yeah. All the people that we're rocking with, you know, they all know a certain type of criteria, you know, shake the walls or make the place jump, you know? Totally. So we just got finished doing some shows in California at this Paid Dues Festival. And it's funny because here's a group--there's a bunch of groups that are "underground," but together, they bring over 5,000 people, almost 6,000 or whatever to one event. That shows the power of what you call underground. But you still got to be good. No matter what you do, underground, over ground. The craft of it still has to be liked by people. Absolutely, man. Now speaking of big shows, I know you were down in Texas. I saw you at the South by Southwest, the Duck Down/Stones Throw show, which was awesome. Did you have a good time down there? There's no question, you know? It was good. I mean, I never had a sound clash before like that in the sense of the whole massive or the whole team, you know? So it was exciting. And sound clashes are exciting because they're not, there's nothing negative, there's nobody dissing each other or nothing like that. But it does bring the whole essence of "let's see what this person's going to do, let's see what that person's going to do" to hip-hop, but in a positive way. You know, there's people that's there for Stones Throw. Then you have people that's there for Duck Down. But the bigger picture was everybody came together. So that's what I want to do. I want to promote that in the future. Now I also, I gotta ask on the status of Black Moon. Are you guys working towards a new Black Moon record or are you just doing the solo stuff now or what? No, we're working on that. We're working on that. That's going to be real vintage Vincent Price-type stuff. Nice. So it's going to be real--I guess you could call it dark, but that ain't going to be--that's not going to be a light album. I learned how to put different stuff that I do in different areas, like Buckshot stuff is over here, Black Moon stuff is over there. But I know that…I leaned now what people really like. Like, when they listen to Black Moon, they want it to be a certain temperature. Yeah, totally. So you know what I'm saying. And then when they listen to all of the other stuff, they want it to be a different temperature from that. So you know, we're working hard, put it like that. I'll say it like that. Like, Black Moon is hard at work trying to get the foundation set right now. Okay. Is 5FT out [of jail]? Yeah, 5 is out. 5's been out for a while. 5 is with E[vil Dee], while I'm doing different stuff. He's with E going over the production. Excellent, man. I'm looking forward to that. Yes, sir. Now I know you guys also, as a label, you know, you made some big moves. In addition to the signings, you also did, like, partnerships with YouTube, partnership with the History Channel, the Gangland thing. I know you're doing a lot of cable TV stuff and licensing and that type of stuff. Yeah. Is that something that's been in the works for a while? Always, always. You know, like, it's no problem for me to give you or to give the public somewhat of a formula of what we do or how we do certain things. Like, people look at it and say, "Damn, you know, Duck Down, they do this, they do that." But I think the difference between us and a lot of other labels, if you want to know the difference, to me is that, all right, our staff work together with the ammunition of business and creativity, meaning, you know, a lot of times me and Dru will look at things from an artist's standpoint of view and a business tactic. Like, we are two creative people when it comes to being, you know, artists.

So even if we're both not behind the production side of it or behind the studio or whatever, we are very, very creative. But that creativeness plays a big part when it comes to business too, because we have the same type of energy in a business sense. So we work together in business like MCs work together in art and groups. And a lot of these stiff-backed, you know, record-company owners or these stiff-backed promoters or whoever, a lot of them, they don't have that essence of what people like, at least [that the staff] out there has, whether it be Dru or Noah or Chucky. Everybody got a certain type of energy that's kind of missing from the boring side of the business. You know what I'm saying? And you can't replace that.
That's what's up. That's why it's easy. So those companies...a lot of these companies that want to know how to do things or how to get things done, you just got to let them know. You know, again, it's funny, man. It's like, I watch companies and people switch positions and this business all the time. And it's all over the fact of one thing: Somebody has it popping.

You know what I'm saying? That's all. We got so much fancy names and fancy positions and titles and language and whole bunch of other fancy stuff just for product popping. That whole building is dedicated to selling the record. And it needs a lot of records to sell, but it's still dedicated to selling, the building. So when you think about the concept of it, it's like I'm not saying that you don't have better resources to get it sold. But the bottom line is talent, too, you know what I'm saying? So that's the bottom line.
That's crucial, man. So if you have any type of way to get that product out there, to get your awareness out there for people to even know about it, then that is the record company. The other parts are the manufacturing, man. You know, your brother could press the records up if you want, if you that good. But that's why a lot of people aren't agreeable because they don't like the fact that you can only survive this long in the game if you're doing something or if you know something right. I don't know. It ain't egotistical but that is the truth. Yeah, I hear you. I mean, you guys have been doing this for a long, long time, when a lot of people that came out when you came out, fell by the wayside years ago, you know what I'm saying? Being that, you know, the way the industry is now, kind of crazy, lots of changes, you know, the majors are struggling, everybody... [Laughs.] You know what I'm saying? I'm sorry. I didn't meant to laugh in your ear like that. It's just that, you know, you've got to understand something. Like, I take pride in this, because I sit back and I hear stuff. You know, I have a certain way of feeling things in my heart. And I know that when I feel things that deep, I'm personally right. And I'll fall back because of the overwhelming…you know, there's so much other stuff that's coming at me in the industry and people go, "Well, I feel you and all that, but this is this, da, da, da." Right, right. And then I turn around 10 years later and it is how I said it is. So it makes me upset because I be like, "See, follow yourself, man. Stop believing and get influenced or listen to nobody out here because that's the only thing you really have at the end of the day is you, to look back on whether you made a good thing happen or a bad thing happen. You're still going to be responsible for that." So it's only maybe that because, yeah, you saying that right now and I remember a few years ago that was never the case. And if anything, independents was struggling. So how is it that the world--how is it that it's standard industry language to say the majors are struggling? You know? And that's why the independents, that's why the game is so crazy now. But when you think about it, again, when you don't take credit, you don't get credit. So yeah, the major's are struggling, yeah, Koch is right now, right now, the number one urban or independent distributor and that's only because nobody else ain't swinging the bat. But they do their thing and there's enough respect, enough love for that. But it's a good example to say that's a distributor. They have a label too, but they're a distributor.

Now, we don't war with rappers, but we do have competition with other labels, meaning we do go to war with other labels. F*** that. And it won't be a verbal sense, but it's a sense of business-to-business. Like, you know we get down with our label while, like, you have a number one distributor, but our label is focused...
…is that strong. Yeah, is that strong as a label. So, we're not a distributor but it's just so funny that, yeah, we have to take our credit to say, "Yeah, there's a lot of other labels out there but, yo, you know." I mean, if anything, you guys are stronger than ever. And not just here, but like worldwide too. That's the thing. And I give thanks to the people and the patience of all the people that we work with. And the plus, like I said, man, this is the time that I'm not taking the negative thought about letting people know about it, but I do got to let them know, like, these are smart people that are in this staff. And I'm going to make it easy for you like that because I do have a problem sometimes with taking that credit because I'm so, not to say humble, but people tend to take things the wrong way. I hear you. But now I can go, "You know what? I don't care how you take it. Like, they are good at what they do and the bottom line is because you see a result at it." No doubt. And I take pride in knowing there's a lot of labels that fell because they made the wrong decisions, not that they didn't do good business or whatever, but they just made the wrong decisions, and we are a balance of each other. Sometimes, you know, I may make wrong decisions and vice-a-versa, and we all make wrong decisions. But we're all there to balance each other too. That's what up. With everybody nowadays, you know, cats aren't even trying to get deals. People are just starting their own labels. And it might just be, like, a dude in his room with a burner, or it might be a full team and a business plan and budgets and stuff. For all those dudes that's trying to go get it themselves and not trying to wait to be signed and trying to do everything on the independent tip, running their own businesses, owning their own publishing, you know, what advice would you give for those dudes? Make sure that you don't take on more than you take in. You know what I'm saying? I mean, that's all great, gravy, but don't take on more than you take in. I mean, because I'm not going to judge nobody. I'm not going to judge that kid who's saying, "I got my own label," and he's basically on a laptop next to a bowl of Cheerios in his crib. I'm not going to say he's no bigger or worse or badder, whatever...look at him any different than the guy who has an office because the bottom line I keep saying is it's all about that product. And all that stuff is a fancy way of just the...just bananas or something. Mm-hmm. So if you got the product and you have a good way of running your business then you're actually the smarter person, you know what I'm saying, because you're not overspending, you're not doing unnecessary things. But, yeah I would not sleep on those guys. And there is going to be another label, another Duck Down, another independent blah, blah, blah that comes from damn near nowhere and everybody...because, come on, we're all going to get older and that's just the life of whatever, how life is. You know? So The Formula record with 9th is coming soon. Your record with KRS, what, this fall, late summer? Pretty much, you know, I don't really have a date on that yet. Later this year sometime? Yeah. That's what's going to be different. We're going to make everybody step their game up. You're going to notice like all the cloners, and I want to try to remove some of the cloners out of the game, like everybody asking the same questions, everybody doing the same thing, everybody going to this...it's like, I'm not mad at that, but I'm just like, "Wow, you know? S***." You know, it reminds me of the gray, black-and-white futuristic movies like I, Robot and all that, no more color and all that. Color's against the law and all that. [Laughs.] Totally. So whatever. But like I said, it's all good. The main thing and the most important thing is that Duck Down as a label was established in '95. So to be able to be still here in 2008, and outlast the label that came out with us, outlast other labels that came out with us too, that's the reason why it's so important for me, as an individual, to promote Duck Down and say yeah, to have a person like KRS-One put his trust and his vibe into saying, "Listen, the same way I trusted Barry White years ago or whatever, that's the way I look forward to you guys," meaning that I look forward to you all taking the project that I do to the next level because you all know how to do that. You wouldn't put a basketball in a football person's hands, you know what I'm saying, unless you knew that they way versatile. So that's the good thing. That's what I'm glad about. And I do want everybody to keep their eyes on the dot, you know, on the dot-com because that's the number one source of information. Excellent, man. Right on. Well, thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Buck. I appreciate it and looking forward to the new music and looking forward to the next show, the next time you come out to Cali. Oh, man, I appreciate it, you know what I'm saying? And big up…I just wanted a last big up to Charlie Murphy. He's in the video, right? Well, yeah, but he's a very big additive to our whole movement. Yeah, that's huge, man. You know what I'm saying? So word, man. So definitely look out for that. And thank you very much for the interview, man. All right. Thanks a lot, Buck. Have a good one. You, too. Peace.

Buckshot & 9th Wonder "Go All Out" (ft. Charlie Murphy)

For more on Buckshot and the whole squad, check out Duck Down Records

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