“Have you noticed a difference in crowd response since when you dropped Cohesive?
ST 2 Lettaz: To me, the Cohesive album is a better album to perform. When we did our first album we were still studio artists, we had never really performed. The shows we did do in Alabama were not good venues for concerts, we were on shitty P.A. systems so we didn’t really know how to perform. The more we got on the road with Huntsville International and Starshipz And Rocketz we learned what worked and how to make songs that are better for performing. I think with Cohesive we have performed pretty much the whole damn album.
Yung Clova: On our first go around we might have had 50 people in the club. On the second go around we picked up more venues and we had more people in that spot.
When you think of hiphop you normally think… the Bronx and ciphers and what not. What were your first memories of hiphop in Alabama?
ST: It was what fed to us through videos and radio. There weren’t any ciphers going on my block. We’re from Alabama, so what we would get was whatever was on YO! MTV Raps or Rap City. And there was the bootleg man who would go around and sell tapes and CD’s out of his trunk. That’s where you would get the new shit. If it wasn’t from him you’d get it from some mom-and-pop shop. We used to go and buy CD’s because of what was on the cover. You didn’t know who it was or how dope it was but you’d just go ahead and take that chance.
YC: Or they had block parties… a lot of house parties… so a lot of people were playing music in their cars as they were driving through the neighborhood, so you might hear something that you like, and you’d be like, “Oh, that sounds dope”, and then you’d try to find it.
How did you start rapping?
ST: With me, I heard Ice Cream Man by Master P, I saw the video and heard it on the radio, and it hit me. I knew what I was gonna be for the rest of my life. I’d hear some guys on the corner freestyling or whatever, but I’d be off to the side in my own little world, just trying to hone my skills and get better.
YC: I started from my cousin, he freestyled all the time, playing around. And one day I just felt like taking it to another level.
ST: We had a mutual friend who stayed on us. He was older than us and the rapper on the block, who had actually put out CD’s. I heard about Clova and he heard about me and we just linked up one day after school.
YC: He’d always bring us together and be like: “Let me hear what y’all got”.
ST: When we went to college we started to throw our own parties. We performed, because there was nobody that was gonna throw a show and pay us for it. That’s where we learned the skills of performing, doing it ourselves and performing.
Tell us about the song Blackout.
ST: The day we were set to come to Europe our state was hit with over a hundred tornadoes. It’s the worst natural disaster to ever hit our state. We were fortunate to still make it out, our flight still got delayed, we missed Bergen, Norway. But we were fortunate enough to make it out.
YC: My flight actually got canceled. As I was going up, everything was black, no lights on, no gas stores, nothing. The tornado had torn up one of the cities I was going through really bad. All the cars were thrown to side of the road for all long as you could see. Luckily I made it home. As soon as I made it home the ligths came on in my house.
ST: His city, Athens, is maybe 15 minutes down the road, they had lights. But the biggest city, Huntsville, had no lights for a week. So everybody was going to the nearby bigger cities, but a lot of people were stuck. I was stuck in Amsterdam and heard what was going on, and it was so heavy in our hearts. When we finally came to Oslo a day or so late and got settled we made the song about it. Over 300 people died, a lot of friends lost their houses. It was a learning experience. It let us know that our family can provide, whatever the circumstance is. The only thing we could do is make a record about it. We put it out, it’s free for download, but if you want to donate, you can donate money and that goes to the Red Cross. And when we come back we’re gonna help people to rebuild and clean up.
With that song Aura, do you use the term in a religious way?
ST: Nah… it really wasn’t religious. We all pretty much know what the aura is. It’s you, your inner glow, what you give off if you feel a motherfucker when you walk up to him. Another way to say swag. Swag! Swag! (*everybody starts laughing*) That was even before Lil B and I don’t know how the hell he resurrected the word swag. It died and he resurrected that bitch. We were just trying to find an alternative. I mean the song has that Outkast, divine sense to it. I’m not so much religious, but very spiritual.
YC: I consider myself a Christian. In my city, Athens, where I’m from, it’s so small, and there’s a church on every corner.
ST: It’s what you would call the Bible belt, where they still pretty much base their laws and society around the Bible. It’s a huge part of our upbringing. I was a very religious person, but the more I educated myself on the world and things around me, religion seemed to be more politics and business oriented.
YC: It aint that, it’s the preachers. They’re turning it into a job. They use preaching to make money now. It’s all about money back home now.
Many people would think that the Christian community in the South is extremely conservative. Do you think they are more so than other parts of the country?
ST: Not so much. We clung on to religion as hope, because we were oppressed for so long. Especially being in Alabama. That was pretty much our only equalizer. The fact that we had God and that there was a heaven after this. That’s what they use if for, whereas more of the white Christians use it more as a way to control the people. It’s more politics.
What would you say were the biggest difference between you and New York.
ST: The 808. We make our music more for cars.
YC: One thing with New York – they walk around with iPods and what not. Can’t put too much bass in them.
ST: In the South you don’t walk anywhere. Atlanta make their music more oriented for clubs than for the car culture, but then you have places like Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas, and a little bit of Florida; they pretty much make it for the cars, some shit you can ride and vibe out to.
When you rap, whose footsteps do you feel you are following in?
ST: With the way we formatted our company and our business plan, we feel like we’re trailblazers. Nobody came from Alabama and did what we did. Even those that took the major route, they didn’t do what we did as far as coming to Europe and making a name here. Musically, we have the basic forefathers, like UGK. Outkast and Organized Noise inspired us doing a producer and rapper combo. But we tried to break away from all of that.”