L.I.F.E. Long (2004)
How did you come up with the name L.I.F.E. Long?
L.I.F.E., that’s a name I had since my earlier years in high school, I’ve been probably an emcee since I was 10 years of age. When I started taking it serious in high school I came up with the name L.I.F.E., which is just an acronym for ‘Living In Full Effect’, which basically is the state that I’m always in. I’m always living in full effect, always full of life. And Long is just basically me leading on new grounds. It’s not really an acronym, but I break it down ‘Leading On New Grounds’. So L.I.F.E. Long is just the state I’m in and I’m trying to grow with that and basically keeping the reality of myself just moving. So that’s L.I.F.E. Long right there in the nutshell.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Queens, New York. But now I reside in Brooklyn, I’ve been out here since 1995. Well, I mean I rep New York the whole but I’m originally from Queens.
You told me that you’ve been rapping since the age of 10 – what about the time when you took your career seriously?
I started really taking it seriously probably in 1992. And basically I appeared on my first 12inch in 1999. So it’s just been alot of jumps from 92 to when I appeared on my first record 99. I basically witnessed alot, seen alot, experienced alot…*laughs*
What have you done within these 7 years?
Within the seven years it’s me basically in the game, doing music and perfecting my craft. I’ve done alot of different collaborations with other artists. A little bit of touring. I dropped my first – I guess you could say – real project last year, I dropped a single and an EP. This time around this year I’m preparing for a new project that’s about to drop. I’ve basically been in the lab trying to perfect my style and trying to get my name up a little bit. For the people to recognize and just to see what I have to bring to the table.
How does your life look besides making music?
Besides making music I’m just a regular person – really, to tell you the truth. I live with my girl and her son. Basically it’s about family to me. I try to keep myself politically and consciously aware just off what’s going on. And that’s it! I think you could say I’m a soldier basically. When it comes to the music that’s the warzone right there but yet I have the other training that I have to do before I get on the battlefield. That’s the everyday life responsibilities and things that just every person goes through. That’s what I put in my music, it’s everyday life situations.
To me, you’re album “Struggler’s Paradise” was a very political album. What were you’re thoughts behind the title and the album in general?
Everybody is in some type of a struggle wether it’s what you’re doing in your 9 to 5 or something your encountering at home, racism… basically it’s just a struggle. What I was thinking about when I put together the album was that I’m gonna think about the struggle but at the same time I’m gonna think about the good parts of the struggle. Each person has their own struggles that they go through, they always seek to find some type of paradise, some type of positivity to the struggle. That’s basically what struggler’s paradise is. It’s like I’m showing you the struggle but I’m letting the people know that I’m still in paradise. It is paradise for me still be able to make music and to turn something negative into something beautiful. “Struggler’s Paradise” is me bringing the everyday struggle and the things that people don’t like to do but actually trying to turn them into something positive.
Which is the EP’s most important song to you?
Hmmmm, uhmmmm well, that’s ill right there. I don’t know man! Uhmmm, I like “Recession” alot – because I felt like this was my little theme song for New York basically. Because I felt within that song I painted a picture for the listeners just to let them see what the average person does out here in New York, just dealing with the struggle. So I feel like “Recession” is one of my favourite songs on the EP – between that one and “Pimp The System”!
Do you have an opinion on the actual political state in the US and especially in New York?
I feel like politically it sucks and now it’s not really politics I feel. Politics should be for the people and I feel like alot of the politics that are going on right now are basically things that have already been going on. Basically politics right now mean that people are doing what they wanna do. You’re not really encoding the people’s voice into anything, and make it seem like everything is for the people but it’s not. The state of politics is turning back to the same state it was years ago, when people were just manipulating people, you know?
Yeah, but I think the manipulation has changed over the years…
Yeah, they’re doing it really settled. You think that the politics are for us and that these issues that the politicians are bringing up will be able to help our communities but these things are basically really planned out. So I feel politically here in New York we’re about to turn into a police state within the next couple of years.
Did anything change after Bloomberg came for Guliani?
Bloomberg right now he’s trying to run a campaign and save alot of money and do alot for New York. But at the same time I feel like he’s basically continuing what Guliani was doing. I think Guliani did alot of things that were unnecessary for the people here in New York and I feel like Bloomberg is basically just doing the same thing. Like, I mean, the ticket to the summits that they’re giving people – it’s really ridiculous. Like last year they gave a woman a ticket because she was pregnant and she was tired and she couldn’t walk up the stairs of the subway, of a crowded subway, so she basically just took a break for a minute and sat down on the subway. The police gave her a ticket for blocking traffic or something like that, which I think was something really stupid. And I feel like Bloomberg is really like enforcing the same type of tactics and things like that.
Ok, back to your EP – in your song “The Night Life” you rap about “labels giving up million dollar deals to artists you don’t feel”. Who are you talking about?
I’m talking about alot of these labels that are just giving out alot of these deals to artists that I don’t think really should deserve them. It’s not really one artists that I’m targeting, I’m basically targeting the mass of crap that’s out right now. There’s alot of music out there that is just destroying the culture and it’s basically just misrepresenting what the foundation of HipHop is. I feel like alot of labels are just wasting their money.
You told me that you’re already working on you next album – could you just give up any information?
I don’t want to unleash too much about the album right now, just because I’m still in the production process. One thing that I can tell you about my album – it’s gonna be a continuation from the EP but at the same time I feel that I matured alot on this project, the production has gotten much better, I feel my concepts basically a little bit more universal for people to be able to get into and I think people will be suprised of some of the features. I leave it like that, people will be suprised of some of the features. One thing you definately hear: Stronghold on there! That’s one thing I can let you know, there will be members from Stronghold on the album. That’s one thing I can say, but I definately have some nice suprise features for the listeners. So if cats are checking for L.I.F.E. Long, they definately gonna be into this project.
How did you meet all the members from Stronghold?
We all met just basically on the hiphop scene out here in New York. There used to be a website called 88hiphop.com, that used to be a big website here in New York where they were doing interviews, performances, they were doing an emcee battle every week and that was something also the public will be able to come down and witness. And they had a radio show and alot of people used to come up so alot of the members from Stronghold just used to be up there hanging out. We found out that we had alot of things in common, so Breez had the idea of forming a crew with some of the emcees that used to show up at 88hiphop. So all the people that he approached, basically five people, decided that that was something that they wanted to do as well. So the first five members was myself, Poison Pen, of course Breez, C-Rayz Walz and Stelf Index. And just from that we basically started dealing with each other and we grew tight as friends. And then other people liked what we were doing and wanted to get a part of it. We just opened up the organization and that’s how Stronghold formed.
Is it true that Immortal Technique is a new member?
Yeah, that’s definately true. Immortal Technique has always been down with us but it’s basically been kind of official for like a year now with Technique being a member. Also Swave Sevah from the group Cevees, he’s also a member of Stronghold as well.
Are the members of Stronghold still down to face other emcees in a mic battle on stage?
Yeah, no question! We definately take it to the battle, to the recording or whatever! I think we’ve all kind of matured a little bit, so the battle thing was something we were doing alot in our earlier careers even though we still do it. But right now I think alot of the members are just taking their career seriously in terms of just recording and performing. So we haven’t really been battling to much, but we’ll still put on the boxing gloves and get in the ring if we have to! *laugs*
Is it possible to get all members on tour or to work in the studio together – will there ever be a – let’s call it – ‘true’ album?
We have a new mixtape, Stronghold has a new mixtape that’s dropping in july, ‘Volume 2′. In terms of an album, that’s something that’s in the works, we have alot of material of all, so we have alot of just unreleased recorded material that we’re gonna unleash to the world in a minute. We’re just waiting for the right deal and for the right company to take interest in the project. We’ve gotten approached by alot of different people and we’re just trying to think what the best deal for us will be. We definately have, you know like I said, alot of material and things we’re going to put out. You know, the mixtape that’s gonna be coming out on Day By Day and in terms of Stronghold we have some other projects that will be coming out as well. So I mean, people will get that full Stronghold album pretty soon! It’s all depending on what these labels wanna do.
Is it true that you will be working with the Monsta Island Czars? I read that both groups plan to drop an album together, could you give me some bare facts?
It’s really like right in the works now. We’re trying to get tracks ready for it and we’re still recording. MF Grimm and Poison Pen, that’s something that they put together but basically it’s gonna be Stronghold emcees and MIC Emcees together on one record. It’s gonna be something interesting, it definately gonna be something different. They will also be working with alot of international producers and emcees as well. Look out for me, I’m working with some producers from Germany called Snowgoons, I done some things with the Elite Fleet out in Sweden, my album is coming out first in France on this label called Ascetic Music- so we’re doing like alot of international stuff as well.
The Stronghold is not only into rapping and DJing – Stronghold Ventures Inc. includes Puppet Makers, Dancers and Graphic Artists. Could You tell us anything about the less known workers behind the whole thing?
We have alot of people and alot of family that is down with Stronghold. We have people that do graphic design, we have my man Bam, he’s down with Poison Pen’s other group called Emveez, he makes puppets. This guy is a phenomenal artist! He does graphic design as well. We have my partner Wiz, he also rhymes as well but he does like graphic design. We have producers in the crew, DJs, we have dancers that are down with us, models – it’s like a huge family unit. You know, everybody in a family has something else that they bring to the table. There’s so many of us and we all have different affiliations, each person brings and adds on what they have. Actually Bam, that did the puppets, he was just featured in XXL magazine right here and they did a nice feature on him doing the puppets.
This is a very discussed topic over here: do you think C-Rayz Walz changed his style when he got on Def Jux?
Hmmmm, I don’t think that C-Rayz really changed his style. You have to understand: people used to hear like C-Rayz sounded a certain way on other people’s records. So sometimes when artists give them a solo album, it’s gonna be different than all the features that they’ve done and all the collaborations that they’ve done. And also I think C-Rayz did it something a little bit different than alot of the other Def Jux artists because he’s working with alot of the producers that he wants to work with. I know alot of the Def Jux artists, they work with El-P and RJD2, which is cool, but I think that C-Rayz is trying to handle his career a whole different way. In terms of him changing his style when he got on Def Jux – I don’t really see that. But for the fans that might be something different.
You’re also a member of the Writer’s Guild which is you and Loer Velocity. Where do you know him from and when will we hear some new stuff?
It’s the same way I know Stronghold basically. I’ve known Lo probably since 1993, we met at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe, it’s a legendary open mic spot that Bobbito used to host. They open mic there every wednesday called ‘All That’. So that was something I used to go every wednesday. And Lo used to also always be there, hanging out with Mr. Live, Tony Bones and Breezly Brewin’ from the Juggaknots. You know I met those guys, me and Lo we started talking after one of the events, we got cool, started doing music together and than – Boom! – the Writers Guild happened. So we have a whole album that’s about to drop pretty soon as well. Right now we’re just taking time apart from that and just working on our solo careers trying to get things tight. But the Writers Guild album will definately be out soon, it’s already ready. My solo will be out this fall so the Writers Guild will be out 2005 maybe…
What was the most important album to you ever to come out from New York?
Hmmm … hmmmm …. so many! *laughs* So many! I got three for you. I got Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation To Hold Us Back”, definately! Organized Konfusion, their first album I would probably have to say uhmmm *laughs* That’s really hard, man! I would say maybe Tribe Called Quest’s first album, Instinctive Travels. The reason why I said those three: Puplic Enemy: that was something like they had just that political movement, that topic, they had that on lock when they came out and that was a message that the youth really needed at that time. I feel we really needed that upliftement and we needed that album, that was just something important that was needed. In terms of Organized Konfusion, I think like stylewise that was a very important album to come out. Because when that album came out, HipHop was still kinda free and young and it was going through alot of different changes and alot of different styles. So Organized Konfusion, they kinda brought something different from like the regular artists were bringing at that time. Because they were bringing political stuff, they were bringing some off-the-wall stuff, it was crazy! And then Tribe Called Quest, I think they just started a movement. If you notice alot of these acts – I’m not saying that these guys copy anything from A Tribe Called Quest, I’m just saying like if you look at the movement now – alot of the artists like Slum Village, Little Brother, Dilated People, these artists kinda got their styles from Tribe Called Quest. So Tribe Called Quest they just brought something like a nice vibe. Jungle Brothers did their thing, De La Sould did their thing, too. But Tribe, they were kinda pionieers of that jazzy hiphop I feel.
Who was the most impressive artist you ever worked with?
I would definately have to say the collabo I did with Pharoahe Monch and Anti-Pop Consortium on their first album “Tragic Epilogue”. Just because Pharoahe Monch is like my favourite emcee. I grew up with Organized Konfusion basically, not really around their way or anything, but we were all from Queens. So I remember like going in certain record stores like ‘Hot Wax’ and seeing Organized Konfusion chilling in there, seen Large Professor chilling in there. So basically doing a song with Monch that was my dream come true, you know? I feel like that was one of my favourite collabos. However, there’s a collabo on the project that’s about to come out which I feel is probably like my second best. I can’t tell you who I did the song with yet, but when you hear it, you’ll see why I feel like it’s one of my favourites. I thought the chemistry on there was incredible.
Are you working to get over here to Germany, can we expect a tour?
Hopefully, hopefully! I try to see wassup now with the promoters! To all the promoters out there if you’re feeling L.I.F.E. Long – holla at K at Kindred, holla at me, let me know what’s good! I’m definately trying to come out there. Like I said, I’m already working with artists from Germany – big ups to Snowgoons once again, they have a compilation that’s coming out with american and german artists. I hope projects like that will bring me out overseas. I know once this album is completed and is out, you know, there definately gonna be a tour for that. I just can’t really tell you like dates right now but I hope to be over there soon, man. I mean, I was out there two years ago with Mike Ladd from Majesticons. It was cool, man, I had a good time, I was in Berlin, Frankfurt and I was in Belgium as well.
Do have anything the people over here absolutely need to know?
I just want people to know that Stronghold is coming with some good music for the upcoming years. If you haven’t heard of L.I.F.E. Long, definately look on some of your favourite indie releases, I basically have been featured on alot of different projects. I’m definately an artist to check for! For those who haven’t heard “Struggler’s Paradise” – my new project definately gonna be some real hot music, I have some real nice features on there. I just want the world to stop sleeping on me, basically! I’ve been out for a minute! *laughs*
What will be the first thing you do after finishing this interview?
The first thing? The first thing I’ma do? Is probably roll myself a nice spliff *laughs* finish getting dressed and then I’m headed for the studio again, man, to create that hot music for y’all!