New Jersey’s 050 Boyz, consisting of rappers Riq da Kid, Tru Trilla and Prince AK, have been making moves in New Jersey’s underground scene over the past couple of decades, whether as solo artists or in local collaborations, making them undisputable veterans in the field of pure, authentic hip-hop.
Their involvement in The Garden State Greats movement of 2004 overseen by Treach of Naughty By Nature and Fam of Rottin Razkals ultimately played a significant part into how the group came into being several years later.
Having released their 050 Dat mixtape in 2013, two years later they have finally completed their debut full length album 050 Everything, released recently on August 4th. The album is entirely produced by Clinton Place, previously known as DJ Jamal #9 and a longtime affiliate of Prince AK from their time spent touring with Flavor Unit’s Supreme C.
We caught up with Riq da Kid and Tru Trilla to gain first hand insight into the making of the project, revealing exclusive aspects of the creation process as well as their perspectives on the current state of New Jersey’s hip-hop scene and more.
Riq kicked the interview off by explaining how the 050 Boyz initially came together.
Riq: We started to really get into music again after some time out, and AK had an existing relationship with myself from working with the Garden State Greats. He had known Tru for some time, being a fan of Tru’s group It’s Only Family. AK had spent a lot of time in the acting world, but when he returned to start working on music he let us know that he wanted us to be a part of what ultimately became 050, so we all got together from there.
From there, the duo recalled their first memories of hip-hop and what initially inspired them to practise the genre.
Tru: The thing with hip-hop, it’s so diverse. You had so many different varieties of hip-hop back then so you wasn’t bored – if you got tired of one there was 20 others that was good, so there was an abundance of good hip-hop back then. I loved everything. I started rapping when I was around 18, something like that.
Riq: I would say I really got into hip-hop probably around eight years old. I tried to write my first rhymes and from there just growing up in the neighbourhood with all the artists from Jersey becoming successful, I just got a little bit more deeper into it.
Tru: I can talk for AK. See this is the thing that people don’t know – AK was rocking but he just wasn’t laying verses down, so I knew that back then he was spitting, but he always had the spirit of helping other artists. I would say he’s probably been spitting for 12 years aside from the hype man role.
They went on to cite the instigators which inspired their decision to try and make a career in the music industry.
Riq: As far as when I started, I got into it because me and my best friend went to school together and right around the corner was the same block where Naughty By Nature lived, so I would go there with him and end up meeting them. He used to call them his cousins – they weren’t really his cousins, but he used to call them his cousins – and I would meet them and then from being over there hanging on that block around them, seeing them perform, rap and become successful, it made me start trying to rap because I was always artistic. From there I was like “Damn man, I want to do what they’re doing. If they could do it, I could do it”, so that’s how I started making it a career.
Tru: For me, I was always inspired to do it but what really got me in the gears of it was that my brother Middy Murdock was doing tours, so that inspired me to see the whole movement around him.
Beginning to move the discussion onto their album Everything 050, the pair claimed that their biggest highlights of 2015 so far really just revolved around releasing the project, having survived through the struggles and tribulations which cropped up during the creation process.
Riq: One of the biggest highlights is actually coming together as a group, as three guys creating this wonderful project that we have that’ll help bring hip-hop back, that boom-bap genuine hip-hop sound. Coming up with a project so classic has been one of the things that has been good luck for us, because there was a lot of obstacles and a lot of different struggles, but we actually did it, came together and came up with this wonderful project and the end result is just real good.
Tru: This project is like the epitome of the work that we put in. We’ve really put the blood sweat and tears in this, and also jewels for the people that get it. So far we’ve had no bad reviews or anything. It’s like all the stuff we went through, all the personal things, I think through all that it brings out the best. All the trials and tribulations brought the diamond out.
Having conducted the interview before the project dropped, we asked the duo about the lyrical topics the listeners could expect to encounter, to which they claimed that the wordplay mainly revolved around what they were experiencing with their own eyes in their local area.
Riq: We got a variety of music from what’s actually going on right now. I don’t know if you watch the news or see different things that’s going on with the struggles in New Jersey itself, especially in Newark and throughout Essex County, but there’s a lot of things happening to our youth. People trying to find out the best way to be successful, have jobs or whatever and we speak on that in our music. We speak on that in some of the topics of our songs, like you take the the classic Marvin Gaye song “What’s Going On” we try and capture that idea in our joint “What Happened”. We got different things gettin explained in that song, the kind of things that go on where we’re from. Then we got songs that are inspirational, telling you to be motivated to do better with yourselves. We’ve just got a whole lot of different concepts. What you think Tru?
Tru: Definitely. It’s like as artists, our duty is to reflect what’s going on. Almost like a reporter but we tell the truth and give it to them, so basically our lyrical topics is gonna be everyday life, such as what the working man goes through. Even because of our past life we made a couple of bad turns, but we got back on our path. So we could talk about so much that could relate to people, but the everyday person, because we all struggle, but through the struggle you’ve got to find perseverance to get through that. I think that’s what makes you great.
Deciding the purpose of somebody’s lyricism is probably best left to personal interpretation, however we wanted to hear their perspectives on what were the underlying themes of the project.
Riq: The underlying themes for the project – hip-hop is back! That boom-bap, that golden era sound that you’ve been missing is back in this album. It’s new and it’s fresh, there’s new artists that you may not have heard before doing this golden era style, but this is going to bring it back and make an impact on hip-hop again.
Tru: Lyrical combat is back in style. If you ain’t got your pencil sharpened, don’t even enter the room. It’s bringing back awareness to lyrics, you know? Because you can’t party all the time. I can’t wait for people to hear it.
Featuring a number of exceptional legendary as well as up-and-coming New Jersey artists, Riq claimed that the album potentially contains the biggest showcase of New Jersey talent as a whole than any other project out there.
Riq: First I’m going to name to you some of the legends we got on there, then some of the upcoming artists. We got Lakim Shabazz, we got Treach from Naughty By Nature, DoItAll from Lords of the Underground and then Famiil from Rottin Razkals. We got the legendary Double O. Then we got the upcoming artists like Drift, Big Stomp, Trill… We probably have one of the biggest albums ever to showcase New Jersey talent as a whole, from having the legends on our album with a lot of the upcoming artists.
As a three piece collective there was surely some conflicts between minds during the creation process, as it can be infamously difficult to reach agreements on individual aspects of a release. We asked just how smooth the writing process was for this project and which were their favourite tunes lifted from the album.
Riq: Well it wasn’t too bad. The reason being we actually did a mixtape before we did an album. Through the mixtape it really gave us a place where we were finding our sound – what kind of music we would make together as a whole. We went through that and it actually moulded us to know which direction we wanted to go when we got ready for the album. So when we got the productions from Clinton Place, it was just automatically natural how we went about creating the album as a whole.
Tru: It’s like when we did it we knew we had it. It was just about what the peoples were going to find out. It was like miracles happening. For me, I really think DNA is one of my favourites. Read A Book, Already Knowing… I can’t even say, I like all of it man.
Riq: Well me, I love energy. I like the type of music which you sit and listen to which makes your head nod, so I really like Hot Damn – that’s one of the singles we got out right now so people can check that – and Let’s Talk About It. I really love those two records.
Clinton Place handles the production throughout Everything 050. Riq and Tru gave us an insight into how they became affiliated with him and which characteristics of his are apparent in the production.
Tru: I knew him from the neighbourhood back then. He hooked up with Prince AK, hit Prince Ak with a track, Prince Ak was like “Man we’re gonna have to make a whole project with this dude”. It’s like the beats catapulted the lyrics, it was like he kind of incubated it, he was speaking our language.
Riq: To add on to what Tru was saying, Prince AK actually used to be a hype man for an artist named Supreme C that was signed to Flavor Unit when Clinton Place used to be a DJ, DJ number 9. He was DJing for Supreme C so they developed a relationship as well. So giving him music, like when I spoke to Clinton Place about it, he was just like “Yeah man, me and AK go way back” so we just hooked up and when we made music he really liked what we did to it and it was just history from there.
We went on to discuss what sort of environment most of the album material was penned down in, to which they responded that it was all done where they felt most comfortable…
Riq: It was done at Double M’s store…
Tru: … But the raw part of it was actually done at my house, we just went there to Double M’s spot for the final mastering.
Riq: That’s how we work – we make certain tracks and hear ones that each other may like and then we start off doing the chorus or doing the raw version of it. Where we recorded was in an urban area right where we’re from. It was a professional workplace but just located where we were comfortable, where we can remember where we’re from so we can just deliver that within our music still. So we didn’t go away on vacation or nothing like that, we did it right here in the hood where we’re from and it still kept us in the essence.
We asked what the pair were hoping to achieve out of the release. Was it money, fame, respect, or something else?
Tru: The money for us is the acknowledgement, you know? We know everything else come later, we understand that… Like with this project, we really trying to make a mark and change lives, we not trying to do it the sad way, you know what I’m saying? So our way’s gonna be different. We trying to change lives and at the same time bring new people in and let them do them, at the same time keeping that critique of jewels and lyrics. Anything that come from us is going to have that. The substance, the whole plate. You ain’t just getting a baloney sandwich, you’re gonna eat a whole plate.
Riq: One of the other things for us is to be able to be successful with the project and share that with a lot of these upcoming artists that featured on the project. And for a lot of the youth that we see experiencing the struggle around where we from, they’ll be able to see us become successful. But not only that, it’ll be inspirational to them to be able to something and chase their dreams. The problem right now is that our youth don’t dream anymore and don’t have goals, because they don’t even believe they gonna live past 21-25 years old. So them seeing us being able to be successful and progressive within a group, our music will be an inspiration to them. Then to a lot of them that are genuinely interested in it we can go “Give me your hand” and help bring them up and mould them into artists and it’ll spread. We’ll be able to help one person at a time, or one family at a time.
Tru: Sharing information – we all about that, because if you hold information that’s gonna die, it’s not going to do no good if you got it. You’ve got to keep passing it on, that’s the real money too. That’s what we believe.
Our final question regarding the project was whether they will be making any appearances in the UK over the rest of 2015, touring the album?
Tru: We trying to definitely get out there. We got a couple little shows coming up, we really trying to test the people on this one. We been giving them music, now it’s time for them to know us, as a person you know? I think that’s one thing, before somebody buys your music, eats your food right, you gotta know who this guy is, who’s cooking your food, you know what I’m saying? You wouldn’t just buy it from anybody so we trying to get out and meet the people, so once they got to know us and know like these guys are cool, that they’re the warriors of hip-hop, then it’s on, they’re gonna appreciate us more.
Riq: Every interview we’ve had, we’ve been having a lot of different enquiries on us coming out to the UK doing some kind of showcase and things like that so you know, we’re just kind of focusing on getting this album released and then I really believe like Tru said from there, everyone who was enquiring are really making the calls to get us out there.
Moving off from the album, we were interested in hearing their perspectives on the state of New Jerseys hip-hop scene, such as what’s aided its growth over the past five years since they formed.
Riq: We – and Tru can account for this – we run New Jersey. Everyone is inspired by what we’re doing in New Jersey. So when it comes down to artists actually having somebody to look up to because they feel like these people are going to be successful, I really want to say that we really are holding the torch right now, saying to everybody that they can do exactly what it is that we’re doing and they’re waiting for us to kick the doors down so they can come in after us.
Tru: Yeah we got that rapport with people and they know we’re not big headed. We got the same problems as them so we inspired a lot over the past five years. It could be better though. You got some people caught in their egos, that’s why we definitely state everytime we rock “ego-free” – once we say ego-free we’re gonna want no wicked sorts around us, that’s a given. We trying to press that towards the youngens, just to be ego-free and everything will fall in place.
Intent on serving the youth as well as the older generations of hip-hop heads, we wondered whether they’d been receiving as much support from the younger hip-hop followers in the area as they might have had when the Garden State Greats movement began almost a decade ago, or whether they felt that in general the local youths interest in hip-hop is slipping as the times are changing.
Tru: Definitely. We get a lot of support from them, some people’s support will be that they watch you – they don’t tell you they watching you until later on, I guess that you not riding or whatever so they do it in a way like that. But there’s a lot of younger dudes who are reaching out to us and we reaching out to everybody else. They see we’re the ones who are carrying the torch to share the energy. That’s what’s wrong, people don’t share their energy and that’s why they die out.
Riq: Not only that though, I work with a lot of the youth trying to teach them music and I always get calls from them letting me know that they really like what we’re doing or asking “Hey big bro can you get on the feature? Can you get on this record?” so that just tells us that the youth feel it, but not only that. For instance, we always have this big music hip-hop festival that they give in Newark and for the past two or three years we have been among the featured artists in that show. Not being able to speak to a lot of the younger kids, not knowing what was going on, we then find out that they’re gonna be there. You just look in the audience and you’ll see all the youth actually watching us and they came there to see us. So a lot of times that tells us that they’re really following what it is that we’re doing.
Next we asked what they felt needed to be done in order to enhance the acclaim of New Jersey hip-hop to a new generation of hip-hop followers.
Riq: Unity, sticking together and actually building an empire and a team together. The only way that we’re going to get Jersey back to where it used to be is if we unify with each other as artists and support each other, even if you’re not an artist. That has really been happening from the movement we created, even our name 050 Boyz, 050 is just a numerical code for Jersey. So that was one of the things that we wanted to let people know, that we’re trying to unify New Jersey. It just helped to unify us and I think that that’ll be one of the things that’ll help Jersey hip-hop get to where it needs to be.
Tru: I’d say what Riq said and also that, how do I say… There’s only one colour out there, we need different colours, like you know this trap thing out, I respect it it’s cool, but it’s gonna burn out so they need to get back to genres of hip-hop. Hip-hop is a big umbrella so you can’t just say it’s one thing. So you got all different types of colours for the umbrella, but you need to bring the colours out instead of having one colour. I think that’ll bring the youngens and the ones who did it before them, it’ll bring them all together because they appreciate our sound as well as we appreciate them and can maybe enhance theirs.
Riq: I think we’re gonna bridge the gap between the people who really appreciated hip-hop and then the youth who haven’t had the opportunity to really understand what hip-hop used to be, or what it really stands for. So I think that with our album and the music that we make, we’re gonna bridge the two together and even make the youth go back and look at their history and where it came from and then the people from the golden era and the era before that, these artists will be appreciative of the sound that we’re bringing to the table.
Tru: Just to add on what Riq just said, it will bring their identity back. They lost their identity, they lost it. So once they find their identity they’ll know who they are.
Riq: It was a bad thing to sound like any other artist before. Everybody had to be original, everybody had to have their own sound and I think that we lost that, but we’re bringing that back to the table, the originality by being yourself. Just like Tru was saying, every shirt doesn’t need to be the same colour. You need to sound like you, you shouldn’t sound like you’re from California when you’re from Mississippi, be original.
Tru: You could take this to rock, pop, country. They all got their different styles but they’re repping that one umbrella. That’s what it’s like now with hip-hop, they forcing you to wear this colour, but I’m like nah, I like that blue one, or the white one, you know we different everyday.
Our final question for the pair was how they would summarise Everything 050 in a sentence.
Tru: Anti-watered-down-energetic-medication, it’s for the people, that’s all I can say. A lot of people nowadays make music for themselves but you know we made this for the people.
Riq: I would say – hip-hop and boom-bap is back.
The album “Everything 050” available from iTunes.