STREET HASSLE: Blaq Poet has been finding motivation in aggravation since “Beat U Down” and “Taking U Out.”
Rudy Giuliani ran his city the way a bachelor does his pad — shoving clutter and disaster out of sight while showcasing redeeming qualities. His neglect of broken neighborhoods and brown folks riled such angry roughnecks as Blaq Poet, who rose from the notorious Queensbridge projects during King Rudy’s reign of terror. So when Poet’s former group, Screwball, put a hip-hop hit out on the mayor back in 1999, little surprise or outrage ensued.
“Who Shot Rudy?” barely rang beyond the ghetto. Even as he wrote about the rappers who “chuckle about the murder of New York’s white, male Republican mayor,” Scripps-Howard media critic Deroy Murdock described the fallout from the “noxious tune” as a “mild murmur.” But the track wasn’t scripted for pop effect; it was intended to antagonize the New York tyrant the same way that Screwball’s first single, “Fuck All You Bitch Ass Niggaz,” was designed to send chills through spineless rappers. In Poet’s words, “If they get robbed and murdered, they deserve it.”
This particular Blaq man (who comes to Harpers Ferry next Thursday) has found motivation in aggravation ever since he entered the lists in 1987 and dropped “Beat U Down” and “Taking U Out” — dis songs that established him as a leading nemesis of Bronx godfather KRS-One. The following year, Poet upped the ante, bitch-slapping the likes of Kool Mo Dee and Rakim on the curb classic “All Hell Breakin’ Loose.” Through it all, the Queensbridge rifleman never beefed with known accomplices for mere attention. He’s a ruthless beast, and his scorn is genuine.
“Whoever wants it can get it,” says Poet on the phone from QB. “I’m making decisions right now about whether to start a war. It can be anybody — pick a nigga, any nigga. Everybody’s talking shit like they’re the best — well, let’s see, let’s get it popping, motherfucker. We can battle without shooting each other. We’ll go to jail if we really shoot at each other, so we might as well battle.”
By “battle,” Poet doesn’t just mean he wants to face off with freestyles. Sure, he’s game for street-corner showdowns, but, more than any tangible threat, his challenge represents the resentment that’s fueled his whole career — the anger he feels every time an LL Cool J or a Lil Wayne is rewarded while skilled MCs (like Poet) face an everyday struggle just to feed their daughters.
“All these motherfuckers have been partying for too long,” he says about artists who rap hard and act soft and about fans who support frauds. “My shit is hardcore to the bone, and it’s for anyone who’s been through some shit — I know I’m not the only one. New York and everyone who’s down with New York needs to support — even youngsters need to get on this train I have pulling up. There’s no more time to play around.”
Two decades into his career, Poet’s cries are louder than ever and reaching his widest audiences yet. His new The Blaqprint (Year Round Records) was mostly produced by the legendary DJ Premier, who packed locomotive gusto and his signature scratch-heavy hooks into all but two cuts. Between the uncharacteristically vulnerable “Sichuwayshunz” and “Never Goodbye,” a tearjerker dedicated to recently passed Screwball member KL, The Blaqprint is being heralded as a leap to street rap’s proverbial “next level” — a destination that many cats strive for but few actually reach.
“Everybody’s trying to hit lotto,” says Poet. “Not me — my strategy is to search and destroy, and to get it the only way I know I can. This is the same shit I’ve always done. It’s just better, harder, and with him [DJ Premier] all over the motherfucker.”
BLAQ POET + BLACKARGO + GEE.KO | Harpers Ferry, 158 Brighton Ave, Boston | July 9 at 9 pm | $14 | 617.254.9743 or www.harpersferryboston.com