Mele Mel- Interview
Interview conducted by: Sam Frank
See what's inside the mind of one of the great Pioneers of rap ... Enjoy!
Congratulations on the RockNRoll Hall of Fame.
Mele Mel: Thank you. It was definitely a blessing.
Are you guys performing there?
Mele Mel: Yeah, we gonna definitely perform.
Everyone in the Furious Five?
Mele Mel: Yes, minus Cowboy, of course, he died, but everyone will be there in spirit.
When was the last time the remaining members performed together?
Mele Mel: The VH-1 Hip Hop honors held about two years ago.
Are you guys cool with each other? Is it like, hey, havent seen you in a while or lets just get this done?
Mele Mel: I think its more of something for the people. We are going in the RockNRoll Hall of Fame to represent exactly who we are and what we did. To have personal goals so that if you have anybody in the RockNRoll Hall of Fame that think we aint worthy to be in the RockNRoll Hall of Fame I think we should do something to prove that us, as well as Hip Hop, does belong in the RockNRoll Hall of Fame.
If it wasnt for you guys, people like 50 Cent wouldnt be around. Thats a big accomplishment. When I lived in Japan everybody was all about the real old school, true Hip Hop, and your name came up a lot.
Mele Mel: In Japan, its more culture driven. All of Europe is also more culture driven. The break dancing, graffiti, the Deejaying, and the real old school style of dress like the pumas and the fat laces, they are into it from the aspect of really embracing the culture. We got a lot of fans over there. Its all love.
They definitely know who you. I also wanted to congratulate you on your new album, Muscles.
Mele Mel: Its definitely a good album. The guys who reviewed said it was a great album. Theres no features because Im trying to establish Mele Mel as an artist and as a brand name; Muscles, so we just go with me on every song, me in the video, just to establish what we do instead of having an outside artist come in and authenticate what Im doing.
I hear a lot of people saying that if an artist has 10 or more guest spots on an album, then it means that they cant sell it themselves. So, by doing it yourself is a real test of what Mele Mel is capable of.
Mele Mel: Thats what Im trying to establish. Its a gamble, and I think it takes a lot of balls to do it, but Im gonna do it because I really believe I gotta establish myself as being able to stand on my own and not rely on anyone to make a hit on my album.
What age groups are you aiming for with Muscles? If youre singing in the older school style do you think it work with audiences who listen to artists like Rich Boy?
Mele Mel: Actually, the album would work for any age range because Hip Hop music is always going to be Hip Hop music. It doesnt change. Some of the songs are for my core audience, and some of the songs are for the next audience. Its a pretty well-rounded album.
That sounds awesome. Im just gonna get a little sidetracked here, but how much do you lift on the bench press?
Mele Mel: Well, I got a body builders physique so I look bigger than what my strength is, and in order for bodybuilding you dont really have to lift very heavy. Im pretty strong for my size, but I could bench about 315 lbs. and I could squat about four or five hundred lbs. and I can dead lift about four or five hundred lbs.
Wow, I go to the gym all the time and you can easily double what I do, but I heard you were looking to wrestle Jon Cena from WWE.
Mele Mel: I think Jon Cena would make a good tag team partner. Im more like a Shawn Michaels or Rey Mysterio Jr. kinda guy.
Youre a high flyer!?!
Mele Mel: I think they would be my best competition.
Am I going to be looking for you as the next Intercontinental Champion?
Mele Mel: Most definitely. You see, with Jon Cena, me and him would be good friends till I flip on him a year and half from now. Wed be tag team partners then one day, out of the blue, I would flip on him, ya know, hit him upside the head in the middle of the ring or something.
You would take it flipmode in front of Vince McMahon. Im a big wrestling fan, so when I heard that you were looking to get in the WWE and I saw your size I thought to myself that you could totally do it.
Mele Mel: For the WWE, Im shorter than the average guy, but I seen Jon Cena over the weekend because Arnold Schwarzengger gave a big body building show and expo out in Columbus Ohio so we all was out there and Jon Cena has an endorsement with a supplement company so he was there signing autographs. He is probably a bit taller than me, but as far as size-wise, were about the same size and thickness. Its definitely going to be something great for Hip Hop and a big story.
Do you think that if you did WWE and became successful at it would you go into movies under the WWE moniker?
Mele Mel: Sure. I never really thought of myself as a good actor. The kinda movies I would like to be are the cheesy martial arts movies where I would be the bad guy. I dont have no visions of being an actor or sayin a whole lotta lines. Just say something corny and get killed by the end of the movie. Ya know, make it easy on me.
Youd be a scary bad guy. Youre believable.
Mele Mel: Yeah, thats what Im sayin. Its easy that way, maybe if Jackie Chan kicks me off a building in the middle of the movie, Im good.
Nothing complicated. Thats awesome. What made you even think about wrestling? Was it your physique or were you thinking all of a sudden that you wanted to try something different?
Mele Mel: I always liked wrestling, even when Hulk Hogan was wrestling, but the thing that made it crystal clear years ago was when they signed Scottie Too Hottie and Grandmaster Sexy. People was like, Yo, Mele Mel, you should be doing that. They came in the ring with doo-rags and I used to wear a doo-rag all the time; but what solidified it was Jon Cena, when he came in the ring and started rapping. And when those fans liked rapping, I thought to myself if they like Jon Cena, then those same fans know who I am. If you like Rap and you know who Rap is, if nothing else, you know my music so if I go in the middle of a WWE arena and say dont push me cause Im close to the edge, the whole audience will scream out, Im tryin not to lose my head because they know me.
That would be your catch phrase, Dont push me!
Mele Mel: But the WWE dont know [fans] know me. Thats the whole hurdle. They let anybody wrestle, but they dont let everybody wrestle. They let Kevin Federline beat Jon Cena, so thats what the whole thing is. If he could do it, I definitely can do it. We just gotta get the business down, dot the is and cross the ts, get myself in a little better shape and we good.
What do you think of Hip Hop now? Do you feel that these new artists are just flaunting their cash or are they really saying something?
Mele Mel: I think as a business its great. As a culture it once was theres nothing like that now. Nas saying that Hip Hop is dead is 100 percent right. The culture it once was and the music it could be is no where near that now because artists nowadays are not hip hop culture minded, they are just a lot of street cats that took a lot of their skills from being on the streets and just brought it into the music. There are a lot of things that really involve Hip Hop, or Hip Hop based that should be paid more attention to, but they left that all out of the equation. Entertainment, stage presence, and being nice to people. Like making an album without using all the features. That has changed to game so drastically. It makes for good business, but it dont make for good entertainment, and it dont help Hip Hop as a culture one iota.
Producers now have taken on a new role in the way albums are made as opposed to the way they were made in the early 80s.
Mele Mel: In most cases, the producer makes more money than the artist because they pay a producer so much to make a track, a lot of times [artists] dont make that money back.
Do you have any special producers on Muscles?
Mele Mel: For the most part I worked with a guy called Joey Malloy, but hes the original Romeo J.D. from The Boogie Boys, The Heat Makers did one, and my man Tony Lopez, out of Westchester County, a young cat, he did one.
Did you recruit these guys?
Mele Mel: I was always in the studio doing tracks I had for years. It was just the process me taking some of the stuff I had in the can, and then when we realized we were going to do a full blown album, I just finished the rest of the stuff.
What was the album you made before Muscles?
Mele Mel: I made an album with one of my brothers from the west coast, Rondo. We made an album together. We didnt really have a way to promote it or the money to promote it.
When you worked with a west coast artist did your style change?
Mele Mel: No, It stayed the same. Working with him I had to do different things. I didnt do everything I would want to do on my own because you working with another artist, but hes a real talented dude, so there were no creative problems. It would have been a great album if we had the money to promote it.
Thats a shame. Theres a lot of good music out there, but if its not promoted correctly and people dont hear it, then people are only left with is whats playing on the radio.
Mele Mel: Well, theres one thing about rap right now, the talent has very little to do with what it takes to make a successful record. It used to be talent. That was the main thing you needed to have. Now you dont need that.
What year do you think that changed? Was it around the time of Eric B. and Rakim?
Mele Mel: If you were to have the evolutionary scale, the era of Rakim was the last great era in Rap. The era when Rakim was out Big Daddy Kane was out, Kool G Rap was around then, you know, some real great rappers were around then. Actually, [things changed] even with the Sugar Hill Gang. There were good rappers before they came out, but if you were to ask any rapper at that time, we all hated it. Rap was destined to go down hill once they started making records because it didnt take the kind of talent to make a rap record that it took to be a real rapper.
How do you define a good rapper?
Mele Mel: A good rapper should be able to rhyme about anything. Im not saying you have to rap off the top of your head, but you should be able to put a rhyme together and write about anything, and be good at it. You should be able to work any beat. Right now, you dont have to have a great skill level to actually do it. During Run DMCs era, with groups like The Fat Boys, the more commercial it got the more the talent level went down hill. It took less and less of a great rapper to do it. Thats why the New York rap scene is dead because you have good rappers, but theyre trying to follow everyone elses blueprints. So you have great rappers that dont know what to rap about so theyre trying to go hard like everyone else instead of just trying to keep it with the flavor, the good metaphors, and the punch lines.
Where do you find a middle ground to make a living with commercial, as opposed to the way you want to rap which you know is superior to what is selling? Thats kind of a hard grey area.
Mele Mel: Yeah, especially when the industry spoon fed the public not to really understand what a Master Rapper is. Everything is just the hooks on the record, the hot beat, it really dont have anything to do with rapping. You could almost say anything on a record and people aint listening that hard to hear it. Its hard to be a good rapper because [audiences are] conditioned not to hear good rap.
Have you ever thought about doing your own radio show on satellite radio?
Mele Mel: We tried to do that with Sirius radio when it first came out, but who knows, we might have a better shot now since Sirius and XM merged. We are trying to bring Hip Hop along and make it mature so that would be one of the elements wed have to add so we could get our music played and get our agenda across to people.
I would definitely tune into that. Who do you listen to? Do you have an Mp3 play you use?
Mele Mel: I listen to Rap only when Im in the club. And when Im in the street I just hear what people are playing in the street just to survey whats coming out of peoples cars. I try to create music so I dont listen to other peoples music because I dont want their music in my head. I want to create from an original standpoint.
Do you have children?
Mele Mel: Yeah, I have seven kids.
Wow, do you know what kind of music they listen to?
Mele Mel: My kids listen to the music from now. Theyre crazy.
Where did you grow up in New York?
Mele Mel: South Bronx in New York.
What was the first Hip Hop record you heard and thought was cool?
Mele Mel: They didnt make records actually. The Sugar Hill Gang, on their album, used a record called Sugar Hill Groove. They used one of the old breakbeats and I thought that was a good record, but they didnt put that record out, but that was the first record I thought was cool.
When you were touring in the 80s did you ever battle against other rappers?
Mel: Not me personally, we always went against other groups. When
The Furious Five was doing it we had a reputation that was so strong not many
groups went up against us so there was no competition. Our battles were after
we made records and went on the road we would do shows with groups like The
OJays and The Commodores to see if we measured up.