The Lords of the Underground are perhaps best known for their ground breaking 1992 album Here Come the Lords. It featured their greatest hit ‘Chief Rocka’ which took the hip hop scene by storm, and helped to earn the Lords the BET award for ‘best rap group of the year’ in 1993.
Working with legends Marly Marl, Pete Rock and even George Clinton, the Lords of the Underground soon became main players in the hip hop arena; all at a time when the genre was really establishing itself. Their ‘socially conscious’ content was eagerly absorbed by the public in the ‘pre-gangsta’ era.
But after 3 albums (their last, entitled Resurrection released in 1999), things had seemed to go a little quiet. Fans could have been fooled into thinking that their Lords had retired, like so many other groups of their time. However, the Lords have been busy, very busy. Each member getting involved in different activities from education, to touring, to film making.
Now they’re back and fully focussed on their music once more with their forthcoming album The House of Lords, which fortunately has nothing to do with UK politics. The Lords have an undeniable love for hip hop and are keen to give the masses something that has been lacking on the scene in recent times.
What have you guys been up to over the past few years? I know that you've been busy. For instance, can tell us about the 'Lord Gang Worldwide', and how have you branched from music into film?
Doitall: For the past few years DJ Lord Jazz has been in Paris touring, DJing and producing. Funk has been in North Carolina finishing college. And I have been acting, recording and working with ’Lord Gang Worldwide’, which was conceived about three years ago and was officially started two years ago. It is a viral networking and branding company that specializes in marketing and promotions. Branching into film was an easy decision for me because I thought I was going to be an actor before I became a recording artist.
There's no doubt that you are always contributing to the hip hop cause. So what are you providing for the masses with this forthcoming album 'House of Lords'?
Doitall: With HOUSE OF LORDS we are bringing the fun back to Hip-Hop, beats, and rhymes making it cool to be yourself, and this album will welcome everyone into the House of the Lords.
What do you know about the UK's House of Lords?
Doitall: Not much, but after a little research on the internet I see that they are Techno & House DJ's that play at different parties.
Funk: I know that it’s a part of the government there.
One thing's for sure, I don't think any of the attendees listen to hip hop…
Doitall: Yeah that's where our album HOUSE OF LORDS comes into play. You get all of your hip-hop at our HOUSE OF LORDS.
Who other than the usual LOTUG crew has contributed to this new album?
Doitall: On this album as all of our albums we introduce new people. This time we did it with producers. On the productions side we've used Sedeck Jean who is Wyclef's brother (he also just did the TI single), Chi-Town Rise or as we call him Chicago Rise, a new producer from Chicago that is incredible. We also used The ARE that is from Houston Texas; a Lord Gang producer named Epic; Lounge Lizzards, who are producers from Denmark and who are amazing (and are working with Justin Timberlake’s new artist); one of DJ Lord Jazz’s protégés, named North Carolina Reggie; and for backgrounds we used Jannyse who is on Style P’s new record and also sung on DMX’s last album. We also used a beautiful Latin female named Nancy N on the "ENGLISH MAMI" record.
I used to watch you guys on Yo MTV Raps back in '93 – what I like to think of as being the golden age of hip hop. How would you say the game has changed since then from your perspective?
Doitall: The game has changed in numerous ways, some good, and some bad. But the most important thing is that it has grown into this billion dollar business. Now we have to, as artists, make sure we mould it into a platform that we can use to help build into something; positive opportunities for the culture of Hip-Hop.
Funk: There is a lot less variety out there. They don’t call the early 90's the "golden era” because the music was so much better, it’s because you had so much creativity. Groups from all over had their own styles. Everybody sounds the same today.
And how have you changed as individuals?
Doitall: Well for me I want to believe that I have become a better decision maker.
Funk: We've all grown as men and as artist. We are more grounded.
Before it was released, did you ever expect Chief Rocka to blow up as much as it did?
Doitall: When we first recorded the Here Come the Lords Album which was the album Chief Rocka was on, we recorded that album without any expectation from anyone but ourselves. What I mean is that we were only trying to be ourselves and create music that we felt and believed in.
When you start to worry about what is good for the radio or what is going to work as a video before you even record, I believe you limit your creativity. So to answer your question we didn't know what to expect from Chief Rocka or any other of our hits.
Tracks back then were more far more gritty and real from what I remember. What's your take on the direction that hip hop has taken?
Doitall: I think now that Hip-Hop has grown and is growing at such a rapid pace, it is time to break Hip-Hop up into different categories just like they do Rock music. With Rock music you have different sub Genre's within that genre, such as Light Rock, Heavy Metal, Grunge, Pop, Soft, and so on. I think that Hip-Hop needs to go that route.
I say that because Hip-Hop is music and a culture that talks to our peers. If you are 25 to 30 are you really pop lock and droppin it?? Maybe, maybe not.
Or if you are 15 years-old can you really relate to poppin bottles in a club? NO! So we as well should have sub division in our Genre. With this House Of Lords Album, we consider it to be ADULT CONTEMPORARY HIP-HOP.
From what I remember, the Here Come the Lords video was the first to feature two tracks in one video (with Lord Jazz Hit Me One Time). Did you ever get props for that? It's commonplace nowadays.
Doitall: Well actually the first video that I remember seeing that did that was a Tribe Called Quest Video. So they should get the props.
It's rare for artists with your experience to convincingly adapt to the more modern styles. What's your secret?
Doitall:The secret never giving up on your passion, not stopping doing what you believe in, and love. We Love Hip-Hop!
Funk: I told ya'll years ago that I was ahead of my time… I am the future!!!
It seems like none of you hip hop legends get older. Busta looks almost the same as he did back in the Leaders of the New School days. Did the track '93 Til Infinity' cast some sort of eternal youth spell on all of you?
Doitall: You know what, that is now my new theme song – 93 Til Infinity it's going into my next rhyme. Thanks for inspiring me 🙂
You had the good fortune to work with production legend Marley Marl. What was the vibe like down at the House of Hits in the 90's?
Doitall: Let me explain what the vibe was. When we first walked through the House of Hits doors, the first person we saw was LL Cool J recording the ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ album; then you would see Heavy D come through; Tragedy (Intelligent Hoodlum); Monie Love; TLC, and any other artist that was coming through to get that heat from one of the greatest producers in our culture – Marley Marl.
How do you 'keep it underground' but still keep your head above water financially?
Doitall: When we or I say ‘Keep It Underground’ I am saying keep yourself rooted and grounded in what you believe in. Sometimes when you do that and you don't sell out to whatever or whomever, your financial situation may suffer. But scared money doesn't make money.
So, you've recently been touring Europe? How has that differed from performing in the US?
Doitall: In Europe the fans seem to appreciate the culture a little more. Maybe because before the digital era and the internet they were not over-saturated with the culture, like we were living everyday with it in the states.
Do any European experiences particularly stand out (good, bad or strange)?
Doitall: Just the fact of being accepted and appreciated by a culture that is totally different from the culture you are from. The only thing that makes you alike is that you both are a part of the Hip-Hop Culture.
Do you know much about the UK hip hop scene at the moment? If so, how do you rate it?
Doitall: Not too much, but when we performed at Brixton Academy we were listening to a lot of different artists. Before that performance we hadn't been there in 10 years, so all I can really say is that the scene has developed into a hell of a Hip-Hop scene. I have a lot of respect for that because it seems as though the artist for the most part, are trying to be themselves.
Has Lord Jazz left his Technics 1200's in favour of CD turntables now?
Doitall: No but he has added the Serato to his arsenal.
Funk: Lord Jazz is pure hip hop…….he loves the Technics.
Does he / you hate it when people in the street say "hit me one time, make it funky"?
Doitall: Not at all. It shows that we made an impact that is still prevalent ‘til this day.
What else can we expect from the Lords of the Underground in 2007?
Doitall: Well you can expect ‘Still LOTUG’ which is a DVD that shows us on our European Tour in 2006. Plus a movie called ‘Cash Rules’ that I am in with Treach of Naughty By nature and J.D. Williams who is a star of a show called ‘The Wire’ on HBO here in America.
Finally, in my last interview, I managed to persuade Mark Ronson to come down and DJ at my birthday party next year. If you guys are in the UK, can you do a live PA?
Doitall: I tell you what I have to speak to the rest of the crew, but we would love to come out as a birthday present to you and perform, just take care of some small things and we will come out.
Thank you once again and remember you are welcomed to our House on August 21st, 2007 and you can bring as many people as you like. HOUSE OF LORDS.
As Doitall said, the album is due for release on August 21st, so be sure to check it out.
Looks like my birthday party is gonna be big!
By Tom Atkinson